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How Shall I Live In This World?

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By Richard M. Jones

HOW SHALL I LIVE IN THIS WORLD? Table of Contents Preface PART I Why Do I Do What I Do? A Philosophical Introduction To Christianity For The Non-Christian Chapter 1 Philosophical Foundations: The Examined Life Chapter 2 Contemporary Worldviews Secularism: ―Ignoring the Eternal‖ Pessimistic Existentialism: ―Nothing Plus Nothing Equals Nothing‖ Sentimental Humanism: ―All You Need Is Love‖ Pragmatism: ―Made in the USA‖ Positivism: ―Seeing is Believing‖ Pluralism and Relativism: ―It‘s All Relative‖ Hedonism: ―Grabbing for All the Gusto‖ Chapter 3 Things Still Worth Thinking About God Morality and Justice Suffering The Conscience Sin Chapter 4 Ethics – An Introduction Chapter 5 ―I Don‘t Need Religion‖ Chapter 6 ―The Bible Contradicts Itself. It‘s Just a Fairy Tale‖ Chapter 7 The Influence of Christianity Chapter 8 Gospel Presentation


PART II Why Do I Believe What I Believe? A Guide To Understanding Biblical Christianity For The Christian Chapter 9 Theological Foundations Chapter 10 The Protestant Reformation and Reformed Theology Chapter 11 Overview of the Bible Chapter 12 Five Solas of the Reformation Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) Faith alone (sola fide) Grace alone (sola gratia) Christ alone (solus Christus) Glory to God alone (soli Deo Gloria) Chapter 13 A Short Explanation and Defense of the Doctrines of Grace Total Depravity Unconditional Election Limited Atonement Irresistible Grace Perseverance of the Saints Chapter 14 Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace Chapter 15 Covenant Theology Chapter 16 PensÊes God is Holy – The Heart of Reality Saving Faith Free to be a Slave The Trinity: Triune Monarchy The Incarnation: Why the God-Man? Prayer Sanctification: Set Apart to Die and to Live Church Service: Surely God Was In This Place Faith and Reason


Old Testament Prophets The Decline of Christianity in America? Spiritual Depression Biblical Illiteracy The Psychology of the Christian Experience: Chief of Sinners Addendum (A) A Brief History of Modern Intellectual Thought in Western Culture (B) The Westminster Shorter Catechism


Preface The Christian faith has never been without its critics. Criticisms from every source have been leveled against Christianity since its inception. It is remarkable that after experiencing almost 2000 years of such criticism that the Christian faith continues to thrive as a viable life and world view. Philosophies and alternate religious systems that have sought to supplant Christianity have come and gone. Current philosophical ―isms‖ tend to have a very short life span. Yet classic objections to Christianity continue to be raised. Some of the objections are raised in a spirit of prejudice and hostility. Others are raised out of a genuine attempt to resolve very perplexing issues and mysteries. Accordingly, I hope one purpose of this book is to serve as an introduction and springboard to more in-depth examination of the issues discussed. Regardless, the Christian must always be prepared to give honest answers to honest questions. Flights into private belief or irrational assertions of dogmatism bring no honor to Christ. It is our responsibility ―to give a reason for the hope that lies within us.‖ (See 1 Pet. 3:15.). I hope this book serves that purpose as well. But I have more pressing reasons for this book. I believe there is little doubt that we live in a post-Christian nation, if it was ever Christian to begin with. This is fascinating in light of the fact that opinion polls consistently indicate that nearly 95% of Americans believe in God and the clear majority of those people describe themselves as Christians. Yet the same polls, when more specific questions are asked, reveal that not 1 in 100 ―Christians‖ has even a passable understanding of the Biblical gospel despite regular church attendance. Clearly something is very wrong. It‘s as if Americans have just enough knowledge of Christianity to become inoculated against the real thing. I hope this book might be an awakening for Christianized non-Christians. I do not believe there is a worse position in which to find oneself than to be self-deceived about being a Christian. The people who know they are not Christians do not fare much better. But even in the face of a culture that almost uniformly tells people not to waste time asking ―unanswerable‖ questions (without ever really explaining why these questions are unanswerable), I still sense that many people are sincerely struggling to answer the same 5

sort of practical yet profound questions that mankind has always asked: How should I live in this world? Does my life have any significance? What is the purpose of my life? Thus, notwithstanding the popularity of a form of skepticism that merely tells people what not to believe, as well as the polar opposite contrast of an endless stream of self-proclaimed experts who are only too happy to give you their newly discovered secret for success, people still need answers to questions that are absolutely crucial for living, in this world and the next. I sympathize with their confusion. In this regard, the unconverted as well as the Christian seeking theological meat are both ill-served by a generally anti-intellectual culture that is mirrored by biblical illiteracy within Christianity itself. Assuming their desire for truth is sincere, where should these people turn for help? I hope this book will at least serve as a first step in the right direction. Here‘s a hint: the way forward is to go backward. St. Thomas Aquinas stated that ―all truth is God‘s truth‖. I agree, however, I am going to attempt to narrow things down into something more manageable. As such, think of this book as sort of ―Cliff Notes on Truth‖. That said, I must also start with a caveat in the form of a syllogism: all men are fallible. I am a man. Therefore, I am fallible. Indeed, as you will see, it is one of my basic premises that the Bible is the only infallible source for all ultimate truth necessary for living. I read somewhere that John Calvin once said something to the effect that, when teaching about the truths contained in the Bible, even the wisest, most diligent, sincere and intelligent theologian was wrong at least 20% of the time. I‘m not sure about the percentage, but I do agree with that statement. So, regardless of the percentage of error contained in this book, let me plainly say that wherever my thoughts conflict with what the Bible teaches, I am wrong and the Bible is right. Naturally, I have done my very best to write what I believe to be 100% true. But I am also sure that, despite my sincere and diligent efforts, some degree of error has made its way into this book. As such, I urge the reader to emulate the noble Berean Christians of the first century AD by taking the following to heart as a lifelong principle: ―Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true‖ (Acts 17:11).


And that‘s the Apostle Paul they are talking about, the greatest theologian that ever lived. Let me also clearly and candidly state that most of the material in this book has been plagiarized, in one way or another, from many different sources. But, frankly, that‘s one of its virtues since it is quite correct to say that people much smarter than me discovered the answers to questions presented here long before I ever knew to ask them. Additionally, I have absolutely no interest in taking credit or making financial profit; I merely want to provide useful tools and tell the truth to people who genuinely want to know how they should live in this world. So, sue if you must, but good luck collecting. You may have also noted that I have already repeatedly used the word truth, and there is certainly much more to say about that word. Indeed, it is one of the primary themes of this book. For the time being, I ask that you do your best to suspend judgment and try to cleanse your mind of any presuppositions you have about ―truth‖ or connotations conjured by that word. At this point, let me add to this already lengthy preface by giving a personal account. When I was in my mid twenties I felt pretty done with life, though I wouldn't call it depression. What I felt was more intellectual and rational than what most people typically mean by "depression". Now, part of how I felt was normal under the circumstances, like the apprehension and nervousness that goes along with post-college life and the long delayed entry into the ―real world‖, including having your first "real" job, living by yourself for the first time, etc. But I knew that. And, let me also hasten to add that, superficially, I didn't have much to complain about - I made enough money to support myself and my indulgent lifestyle, I was popular and had more than enough friends, I had a girlfriend and knew there would always be a new girlfriend if that's what I wanted, and even my material desires were easily obtainable or at least reasonably within reach. I was also well aware that I was a young, healthy, college educated white man, meaning the future was filled with possibilities and opportunities. So, what was wrong, why did I feel such a life crisis? Well, first, let's just say that I was too smart to be happy based on what I knew of 7

the world, and too dumb to see any alternative. Second, the one thing that I had always hoped would give meaning to life - love - I had given up on. If I was honest with myself, I knew I had never met anybody I really loved and I simply didn't believe any of the women who had ever claimed to love me. So, in my mind, love was either an illusion or I was just unlucky despite plenty of effort and opportunities. And, frankly, without love, life did not hold much allure. Finally, despite my young age, I had already basically explored the limits of hedonism. It wasn't likely I could be any more successful at maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain - I was very accomplished at it. Regardless of the reason that triggered my angst, what was undeniable to me was an internal, invisible and inescapable feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. Indeed, at that point in my life, I was holding on to just one thing - I wanted to know the truth. I was on a quest for absolute truth, ultimate truth, immutable truth. That‘s what I wanted to know. I didn‘t care if I liked what I discovered about truth or not (or even if I learned that there simply was no such thing as ―truth‖). I just wanted to know, and I was determined to not lie to myself or believe a lie. I would not be deceived or self-deceived. Well, in light of all of the dead ends I followed, and since this isn‘t a biography, I'll shorten this story at this point because it is boring. It's definitely not important right now. What is important is that, eventually, my quest for truth led me to the Bible. This was interesting in itself given my upbringing and presuppositions. Education was the one unassailable value I was raised with. Everybody in my immediate and extended family was well educated, well read and well bred. I suppose my parents probably would have identified themselves as non-Catholic Christians, but only because they wouldn‘t have known what else to call themselves. In reality, my dad excluded, I would describe my entire family as agnostic elitists. In fact, although it was never directly expressed, it was quite clear that everybody in the family believed that going to church was sort of a good thing because it made you a good citizen and might make you a morally better person, but, bluntly, people who treated Christianity


seriously were either painfully ignorant or just plain kooky, perhaps both. In short, I was raised with essentially no religious education at all, with a touch of arrogant disdain for ―Bible thumpers‖ thrown in for good measure. More significantly, independent of my upbringing, I was highly skeptical of the Bible based on what I knew about Christianity (which is just another way of saying I wasn't crazy about most of the people I knew who called themselves Christians). Nonetheless, I had to admit that two things impressed me based upon my limited knowledge of the Bible: 1) the Bible's consistent negative opinion of man as being a fundamentally flawed creature, a "born" sinner who is completely separated from God, the creator, seemed utterly unique and kind of right to me based on my own experience with the human race; and 2) if everybody always did everything the Bible said to do, the world really would be a better place - that seemed almost impossible to deny. Perhaps it would be incredibly boring, I thought, but it would certainly be better than it currently is. Thus, I decided to approach it fresh, with no prejudices or presuppositions. I started with the New Testament, the Gospel According to Matthew, and, right from the beginning, I felt changed. Maybe that sounds stereotypical or hokey, but that‘s the best way I can describe it. During my first 15 minutes of reading the Bible, I remember reaching Matthew, chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. Sort of Jesus' inaugural address as he begins his 3 year mission. Wow! I had no idea. Why did I think I already knew what this book said? I kept reading. The Gospel according to John. Paul's epistle to the Romans. Wow! Wow! I was fascinated. I was awestruck. I will skip the details of my personal conversion experience because I believe it can be very different for different people and I don‘t want to mislead anybody at this juncture of the book. Still, I have related my background briefly because, in part, I want to refute some of the sillier statements I hear floating around. Christianity is for people who can‘t cope with reality; Christianity is for losers; Christianity is for people who were raised that way; Christianity is for the unintelligent, the superstitious, the weak willed, the lonely, the


credulous, and so on and so forth. People that know me, even those who may not like me, will concede that I do not fit any of those categories. Additionally, I realize that it would perhaps be appropriate to relate a story of coming to Christ via the route of intellectually inquiry, but, honestly, that‘s not how it happened with me. The intellectual drive came later. After being confronted by friends and family who found my changed behavior and excitement about the gospel suspicious, I had to face the question squarely: Was my conversion rooted in objective reality or was it merely an expression of my own subjective needs? I began to experience what Saint Augustine called, ―Faith seeking understanding‖. And I was not disappointed. My subsequent study of philosophy, though cursory, exposed me to virtually every serious alternative to Christianity the world has brought forth. I began to clearly see the bankruptcy of secular world views. I found valuable insights in Kant, Sartre, and others, however, the philosophers themselves were their own best critics. Hume critiqued Locke; Kant critiqued Hume; Hegel critiqued Kant, and so on it went. The more I studied philosophy the more intellectually credible and satisfying Christianity became. Finally, let me close by posing a question: Who is Christianity for? Sinners. Perhaps this a bit premature at this point since I have not even defined sin or sinners, but I might as well make this simple statement now: Christianity, real Biblical Christianity, is for sinners and sinners only. In fact, frankly, I see little reason for anyone to keep reading if they feel completely confident that they do not fit that category. Moreover, even though I may again be guilty of stating a conclusion before I have established a proper foundation, I‘m going to write what might very well be the most important sentence in this book: if you don‘t believe that you are radically corrupt and saved by the electing grace of God alone, you need to repent. And if you do not understand that sentence, don‘t worry, you will by the end of this book.


Additionally, for those of you who are genuine Christians and know it, I have done my best to accurately present the historically core beliefs of Christianity, beliefs that found their fullest and most articulate expression during the height of the Reformation. In short, it is my contention that if you are unclear or in error about any important doctrine taught in the Bible, it is probably because you have an unclear or errant idea about one of two characteristics of God: His holiness and/or His sovereignty. These are both themes found throughout this book. At this point, let me also add that, 27 years after the first day I truly read the Bible for the first time, I am still amazed, still intellectually challenged, still in awe of Holy Scripture no matter how many times I read it. Indeed, I feel this way more than ever. Every time I read and study the Bible I learn something new and simultaneously learn I know even less than I thought I did. The Bible is literally an endless well of knowledge and wisdom. Incredible. What other book is comparable? And it‘s a book that, no matter how much it is criticized, criticizes the reader even more. I love my Lord and savior Jesus Christ and I love his Word. Reduced to its essence, that is my simple motive for why I wanted to put this book together. As Paul, nearing death, hands the baton to his protégé, Timothy, he gives him this simple final piece of advice: ―Preach the word.‖ (2 Tim 4:2). And so, as a conclusion to these opening remarks, let me say that in my life I've learned at least this much: I personally know nothing; however, the fountain of all wisdom is Holy Scripture. As such, be very wary of what men have to teach, including me, but cleave to God's divine revelation, the Bible, the mind of Christ. I hope and pray this book will be of benefit to you. But even if it isn‘t, remember that God‘s Word never fails to accomplish His purpose. God‘s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.



Part I

Why Do I Do What I Do? A Philosophical Introduction To Christianity For The Non-Christian


Chapter 1 For after all what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed. --Blaise Pascal, Pensées #72 I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics; he‟s also concerned to prove that there‟s no valid reason why he should personally not do just what he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously a liberation from a certain political and economic system and a liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. --Aldous Huxley, ―Confessions of a Professed Atheist‖ Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. --C.S. Lewis, ―Mere Christianity‖ To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. --Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19-28


True and sound wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. --John Calvin, page 1 of Calvin‘s Institutes (1536)

Philosophical Foundations: The Examined Life It was Socrates who said that the unexamined life is not worth living. To examine one‘s life is to think about it. It is to evaluate. To evaluate requires examining values and value systems. We all have values. We all have some viewpoint about what life is all about. We all have some perspective on the world we live in. We are not all philosophers but we all have a philosophy. Perhaps we haven‘t thought much about that philosophy, but one thing is certain – we live it out. How we live reveals our deepest convictions about life. Our lives say much more about how we think than our books do. What we actually do is a more accurate indicator of what we believe than what we say. The theories we live are the ones we really believe. Philosophy forces us to think foundationally. By foundational I mean first principles or basic truths. Most ideas that shape our lives are accepted (at least initially) somewhat uncritically. We do not create a world or environment from scratch and then live in it. Rather we step into a world and culture that already exists, and we learn to interact with it. We must live before we understand. We know we must survive and, ready or not, play the game. Sometimes it‘s hard just to stay alive. It‘s hectic. It‘s stressful. But as busy as life keeps us, in our more reflective moments, perhaps at 3am on some sleepless night or at the funeral of a friend, we pause and cannot help but wonder, what does this all mean? What‘s the point? How shall I live? Man has tried to understand the meaning of his life from the very beginning of recorded history. His birth and death are shrouded in mystery and in between these two fateful events man feels a nagging hunger for significance. He thinks. He ponders. And sometimes he even believes he has the answer.


For example, existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger, whose magnum opus was entitled Being and Time, says that man begins by finding himself in a state of what he calls ―throwness.‖ Man finds himself hurled, as it were, passively, into his peculiar existence. He is thrown into the midst of life, and he is his existence. He hangs precariously in a kind of Kierkegaardian either/or situation. He can either interpret himself as a thing—one thing among others—or he can make his possibilities the reason for his existence. The choice is between inauthentic and authentic existence. The ―inauthentic‖ man makes uncritical assumptions, and his thoughts are preoccupied with everyday concerns. His joy is always at the mercy of what happens externally. In a sense the newspaper or television does his thinking for him. His thought-life is merely an exercise in distraction to avoid restlessness or boredom, a kind of continual woolgathering. Another way to describe inauthentic existence is that it is absorbed in the mere passing of time. Life is reduced to a mere pastime. Indeed, it is the element of time that presses the issue. The time element is critical to our experience of throwness. Heidegger says we know time because we know we will die. Tempus fugit is a stark reality that engulfs us in temporal existence. Every moment of our lives we are in fact running out of time. With each passing day we know we are inexorably moving closer and closer toward our inevitable death. Because we ever find ourselves in the here and now, our fundamental mood is that of angst or ―anxiety.‖ Like Sigmund Freud, Heidegger distinguishes between fear and anxiety. Fear is directed toward a specific object: a dog, a snake, a boss, a mortgage payment, or another external reality that threatens us. Anxiety is far worse and much more unsettling. It is amorphous. We cannot name its object, yet it hangs like the sword of Damocles over our lives. One can flee from the object of fear, but escape from anxiety is more difficult. The inauthentic man, when he runs from his fears, takes his anxiety with him.


The authentic man says no to all forms of escapism. He meets his anxiety head-on. The authentic man realizes that anxiety can be both destructive and constructive. It can cause flight into inauthenticity, or it can be the catalyst for freedom. Man becomes authentic by making the right decisions. The inauthentic person seeks safety in normality. He denies his uniqueness by becoming ―average.‖ In this respect he acts much like a member of Friedrich Nietzsche‘s ―herd.‖ He believes as he is expected to believe, in accordance with societal convention. Suppressing the urge to excel, he levels himself downward and becomes ―everyman.‖ He abandons responsibility for his decisions and hence for his existence. He surrenders his ego and adopts the viewpoint of a victim. But still he does not escape anxiety, an inescapable mode of man‘s being. Anxiety manifests the threat of ―nothingness‖ (the nihil) in our being. It is inevitable that we will die. The authentic man comes to grips with the threat of nothingness. He knows he cannot escape his limitations, chiefly his temporality and finitude. Man conquers this through sheer resolve. He seeks to realize his potential in fullest measure. He faces the nothingness at every moment, living as it were, in advance of himself. He faces the future by taking full responsibility for his past. He decides to accept the past and confront his destiny with intentionality. This brings to mind the death of Ernest Hemmingway. Hemmingway acknowledged that he could not defeat death. The only victory he could achieve over death was to decide for himself the manner and moment of his death. One evening, after his wife retired, he meticulously set up his favorite hunting rifle so that by simply pulling the trigger he could blow out his brains. But we protest. As authentic as Hemmingway may have lived, as much as Heidegger might have approved, it doesn‘t much matter to ―Papa Bear‖ now. He‘s dead. Never to be heard from again. One of the greatest writers of the 20th century will write no more. Moreover, one day, despite his prodigious legacy, perhaps in a thousand years or a million years or whatever amount of time you want to imagine, he


will be forgotten. Sooner or later, all evidence that he ever existed will disappear. It will be as if he never existed at all. Thus, even if Heidegger‘s philosophy of existence is true, it is not very comforting. It is a philosophy of despair. We can‘t help but ask, is that all there is? Indeed, we do step into the game long after the game was conceived. The rules have been decided and the boundaries set. We are amused when Rene Descartes labors so long and thinks so deeply in order to conclude that he exists. We think it is funny; we think it a foolish waste of time to prove something we all know is true—that we exist. Or we are puzzled by Immanuel Kant‘s spending his life analyzing how we know anything that we know, when from our vantage point we simply know it. Or do we? Thinkers like Descartes and Kant are not merely gazing at their navels. Foundational thinking lays bare all of our assumptions so that we may discover those assumptions that are false and often lethal. Foundational thinking cares about the difference between truth and falsehood because it cares about good and evil. The ancient maxim still applies: ―The unexamined life is not worth living.‖ To any serious thinker, and especially to the professing Christian, an unexamined life is not an option. Moreover, I cannot not think. To not think is unthinkable. But what are we to make of so many philosophies and world views? Is it hopeless to try to evaluate all of these various contradictory claims to truth? Should we give up and conclude that there simply is no objective or absolute truth? I have my truth and you have your truth. That is a contemporary way of dealing with foundational matters today, but it still does not bring much solace, even to its proponents. In the end, death makes a mockery of all human philosophies. In stark contrast to the postmodernist philosophies that hold sway today, the Bible makes nothing but claims to absolute truth. The apostle Paul declares that God has clearly manifested himself to all men, so that everyone knows his eternal power and deity and is without excuse when failing to honor him as God. As a consequence of this refusal to acknowledge what they know to be true, they ―became


futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.‖ Paul continues, ―Professing to be wise, they became fools.‖ (Rom. 1:21-22) This apostolic testimony speaks to one of the vexing questions in the history of theoretical thought: How can brilliant scholars such as Aquinas and Nietzsche come to such radically opposing worldviews? If the spectrum of philosophical views ranges between full-orbed theism on one side and nihilism on the other, how can men of genius end up so far apart? Perhaps the answer lies in this: If at the earliest stages of intellectual reflection a person denies the existence of God, then the more brilliant he is, the farther his thought will move away from God. Most secular philosophers end up somewhere between the two poles, living on borrowed capital from either theism or nihilism. Without God, nihilism, as nonsensical as it is, makes more sense than hybrid humanism or any other intermediate position. Indeed, I think it is proper to recognize that the existence of God is the supreme protosupposition for all theoretical thought. God‘s existence is the chief element in constructing any worldview. To deny the chief premise is to set one‘s sails for the island of nihilism. It was Aristotle who said that in the brain of the wisest of men always resides the corner of the fool. And nihilism is the darkest corner of the darkened mind—the ultimate paradise of the fool. I am sure I am getting ahead of myself, but it is my intention in writing this book to try to answer some legitimate probing questions, like about the existence of God (and, as demonstrated later, I do believe there is a rationally compelling argument for the existence of God). However, I want to put my cards on the table at the outset. I believe you already know that God exists right now. That your problem is not that you are not intellectually aware of the reality of God, your problem is that you don‘t like Him. You don‘t want him in your mind. You don‘t want him in your thoughts because you know what is at stake. Jonathon Edwards, one of the great theological minds of the Reformation era, said that man was by nature hostile to God. We are hostile merely because He is holy -- and we are not. So we would rather he doesn‘t exist because a non-existent God is far less terrifying than one who is holy.


Let me expand on this thought a little by more fully quoting the Apostle Paul from the passage cited above: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:18-23). Please note that not having glorified God as God nor giving him thanks is also at the heart of false human religion that strips God of his majesty, of his transcendent power and deity, and instead shapes and molds and creates a lesser deity in His place. Paul is saying we know better than that. Nonetheless, the universal response is ―knowing God men refused to honor him as God, neither were they grateful‖ – these are the primary sins of the human heart -- a refusal to acknowledge what you know to be true. You know that you are not God. You know that you are a creature, you know that you were created, that you are finite, derived and dependent. You also know that you are morally responsible for your behavior. You know that your life counts and there is a moment in time to which you are inexorably moving when you will stand before your Creator and will have to give an account for your behavior. Additionally, why not honor God as God when he is intrinsically honorable? We owe everything we have to his being, every good gift that we enjoy comes from his benevolence. But, of course, the second sin flows from the first – ―neither were they grateful.‖


That said, what is it that Americans believe? Some people believe that there is no God. Others say that there are many gods. Some people believe that man is supreme. Others believe that man is worthless. Many people believe there is a God, but they live as if there were no God. Still others ask, ―What difference does it make?‖ Regardless, it would be a dreadful mistake for us to assume that our culture is a predominantly Christian one. Yet our country doesn‘t deserve the term ―pagan‖ either. Our country has been strongly influenced by Christianity and by Christian values. Some have suggested that we have been influenced in the same way people are ―influenced‖ when they receive an inoculation to prevent a disease. They are given a small dose of the disease, just enough of it to be immune to the real thing. Perhaps that is what has happened in our American culture: just enough Christianity has penetrated our society to make us ―immune‖ to the Gospel. Our nation is not pagan, because paganism is a pre-Christian condition that exists where the Gospel has never been preached. That is not the case in the United States. Ours is what I call a secular environment, a secular society. The secularization of American society is a post-Christian phenomenon, not a pre-Christian one. Pre-Christian is pagan. Post-Christian is secularized. It is also important to understand that our culture is a melting pot. We do not live in a culture that is uniform, such as China, for example. Such uniformity has not been the American experience. We have a melting pot of people and, therefore, of ideas. The result has been that many different beliefs and philosophies compete for acceptance with our society. We are not uniform but pluralistic. The melting pot metaphor is perhaps misleading because we have a pot where everything goes in but everything doesn‘t mix. There is an overarching national culture with many distinctive subcultures. There are also socioeconomic classes and many of them have distinctive values. To understand a melting pot culture is not easy. Things get mixed up in the melting pot. When conflicting ideas are stirred up it tends to get confusing. We may be able to identify the particular


subculture we live in or the socioeconomic group to which we belong, but that is not enough to identify our values. We are all thrown in the pot. We are exposed to or influenced by a wide diversity of ideas. For example, we get one set of ideas in church. Another in school. And so forth. All these perspectives bombard our brains and shape our thinking. The diversity and confusion are so great that for most of us it seems that the melting pot is found not so much in the culture but in our own heads. The result is a basic inconsistency in our lives, an inconsistency we are often unaware of. We respond. We react. We feel. But we are not always sure why we respond the way we do. As for the majority of Americans that claim to be ―Christians‖, most of us are inconsistent about such matters. Our viewpoint comes from the melting pot. We get mixed up. Our pot has a dash of faith and a dash of skepticism. We are at once religious and secular. We believe in God, sometimes. Our religion has elements of superstition at some times and is tempered by sober science at other times. We are at the same time Christians and card-carrying pragmatists. On Sunday we say the creed. On Monday we are fatalists. We try to separate our religious life from the rest of our life. We live by holding contradictory beliefs. Living in contradictions can be exciting. Life is surely more than logic. But the contradictory life is a confusing life, a life of inconsistency and incoherence. Its bottom line is chaos. We are inconsistent and confused because we fail to understand where Christianity ends and secularism begins. We do not know where the boundary lines are. Consequently we traffic back and forth across the lines, making forays between darkness and light. We are lost in our own culture, swirling around in the melting pot while somebody else has his hand on the spoon. We‘re not sure whether we are witnesses or the ones being witnessed to. We don‘t know if we are the missionaries or the mission field. Part of the reason we struggle so deeply with a question like this is due to the impact of the results of the nineteenth-century approach to the study of comparative religion. In the nineteenth century there was a concerted effort by scholars to examine closely the distinctive characteristics of the major religions of the world. The ―buzz word‖ of


the day was ―essence.‖ Many serious studies of religion were published which contained titles like The Essence of Religion or The Essence of Christianity. These books reflected an attempt to get at the basic core of religious truth that was found in all religion. Religion was often reduced to its lowest common denominator. Frequently the distilled essence of religion was pinpointed by the phrase ―the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.‖ Thus it was seen that, at the heart, all religions were working for the same thing. The outward trappings of religious belief and practice differed from culture to culture but at the root their goals were the same. Thus, if all religions were essentially the same then no one of them could ever make exclusive claims to validity. Out of this quest for the essence of religion came the now famous and popular ―mountain analogy.‖ The mountain analogy pictures God at the peak of the mountain with man down at the base. The story of religion is the account of man‘s efforts to move from the base of the mountain to the peak of fellowship and communion with God. The mountain has many roads. Some of the roads go up the mountain by a very direct route. Other roads wind in circuitous fashion all over the mountain, but eventually reach the top. Thus, according to the proponents of this analogy, all religious roads, though they differ in route, ultimately arrive at the same place. Out of this conviction that all roads lead to God has come a considerable number of ecumenical movements, pan-religious endeavors, and even new religions such as Baha‘i which seek a total synthesis and amalgamation of all of the world religions into one new unified religion. But there are only two possible ways to maintain the equal validity of all religions. One is by ignoring the clear contradictions between them by a flight into irrationality; the other is by assigning these contradictions to the level of insignificant nonessentials. The latter approach involves us in a systematic process of reductionism. Reductionism strips each religion of elements considered vital by the adherents of the religion themselves and reduces the religion to its


lowest common denominator. The distinctives of each religion are obscured and watered down to accommodate religious peace. The goal is peace. The price is truth. If religion deals with matters of ultimate concern, there is little wonder that religious debates produce so much passion. But if we are interested in truth we can never discover it by denying real differences of truth-claims. The peace that is produced by reductionism is a false and carnal peace. We recall the false prophets of Israel who, in their desperate attempts to avoid conflict, cried, ―Peace, peace,‖ when there was no peace. It is one thing to seek an atmosphere of religious debate that is characterized by charity. It is quite another thing to say the matters under debate are not important. It is one thing to protect the right of every religious person to follow the dictates of his conscience without fear of persecution; it is another to say that opposing convictions are both true. We must note the difference between equal toleration under the law and equal validity according to truth. Finally, let me now return to the more general topic of foundational thinking. Not so long ago, the great thinkers of the world were preoccupied with trying to answer the ―big questions‖ of life. Questions such as: Why is there something instead of nothing? Is there a God? How can I reconcile both the unity and diversity seen in this world (note words we still use today like ―universe‖ and ―university‖)? How should I live in this world? Does my life have any significance? What is the purpose of my life? And so forth and so on. Today, however, even academics and self-proclaimed intellectuals as well as the ―common people‖ seem to act as if either the answers are universally obvious, or, more commonly, believe that no ultimate answers to such questions are possible. Indeed, the questions are not even worth asking anymore. There are no ―right‖ answers; subjective personal preference is all there is. Propositional thinking itself, for that matter, has all but disappeared. Unyielding skepticism has apparently worn people out to the point that they believe that logical analysis of truth claims is simply a waste of time. In other words, people are too


busy ―doing things‖ to bother with trying to understand why they do them. All of the potential answers to these questions have been collapsed into one all-encompassing answer: there is no absolute truth (except the self-contradictory statement, ―there is no absolute truth‖). Seeking more substantive answers would be a gigantic waste of time and, furthermore, anyone who claims to actually have an answer to any of these questions is by definition arrogant and narrow-minded – someone to be dismissed out of hand. Everyone knows that modern man has progressed to the point where he knows nothing for sure. In the remainder of Part I of this book, amongst other things, I want to explore the dominant worldviews found in American culture today. Indeed, I want to represent these different worldviews in a fair manner. However, in order to fully understand the present, I believe it is wise to know something about how we arrived at our current situation in the first place. In other words, rather than blindly accept the current state of intellectual and moral affairs as the product of some linear progress, superior by definition to the past based on chronology alone, I want to explain in more detail the intellectual road that has led to contemporary American culture. On the other hand, I realize that some people might (wrongly) believe that even a cursory review of the history of philosophy in the West is boring and/or overwhelming. Thus, even though I personally believe that a basic understanding of this topic is important and possibly necessary to a proper understanding of the world today, I have reached an accommodation with myself and dropped the section entitled ―A Brief History of Modern Intellectual Thought in Western Culture‖ to this book‘s addendum. Obviously, it is my hope that you will read this material, but it is also acceptable to put it off for now if you wish.


Chapter 2 In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes. --Andy Warhol, 1968 What is the first business of philosophy? To part with self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn what he thinks that he already knows. --Epictetus, Discourses To ridicule philosophy is really to philosophize. --Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 1670 Alice: I was just wondering if you could help me find my way. Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you want to get to. Alice: Oh, it really doesn't matter, as long as... Cheshire Cat: Then it really doesn't matter which way you go. -- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, 1865

Contemporary Worldviews Students of history realize that no society can survive; no civilization can function, without some unifying system of thought. All societies are made up of different people, different jobs, different values, and different classes. In a broad sense, all societies are melting pots. How do the parts fit together to make a whole? What makes a society a unified system? Some kind of glue is required in order for the parts to stick together. The glue is found in a unifying system of thought, what we call a ―world view‖. Various world views can spring from diverse sources. The world view can be built upon a philosophy system such as Platonism or on a religion as in the case of Old Testament Israel. Other civilizations have been unified by a common mythology. Still others came together by a devotion to the state and a particular political philosophy.


We find elements of philosophy, religion, mythology, and politics in all societies, all competing for the rank of dominance. Nevertheless, one of these elements will inevitably emerge as the dominant view to order and unify the society. What dominates American culture? Is it religion? Is it philosophy? Is it mythology? Is it statism? I am sure we will hear voices from each of these claiming theirs as the dominant system. It is difficult to isolate America‘s dominant world view precisely because our culture is so diverse. We have an unusually free and open society where the battle of ideas takes place. If there is a consensus among analysts of American culture they would agree that our unity is no longer (if ever) based on a religious system. Nor is mythology a likely candidate. Though we live in a society with an ever-accelerating growth of central government we are not (yet) totally statist. That leaves one option, philosophy. But which philosophy? Is our world view found mainly in humanism? Pragmatism? Existentialism? Positivism? Each of these schools of thought, as well as others, is flourishing in our day. They compete with each other. They coexist, not always peacefully, and make for strange bedfellows. The question that is provoked is one of common denominator. Is there one dominant philosophy that can include these other schools as subheadings? Is there an umbrella world view that is broad enough to cover these other systems? I believe that one current ―ism‖ has emerged as the dominant world view of our culture. Before we explore it however, it is important to understand the anatomy of an ―ism‖. Ism is a suffix, added to the root of a word. These three letters, when added to a root word, change the meaning of the term dramatically. It is one thing to be social, quite another to embrace socialism. It is one thing to be human, something else to adopt humanism (see also, e.g., national/nationalism; impression/impressionism; feminine/feminism; peace/pacifism; etc. – the list goes on and on). As soon as we put the


suffix on the word it changes the word into a system of thought, a way of looking at things, a world view. In other words, it becomes a systematic way of looking at the world that conditions how we interpret the meaning of daily life. Again, we do not all look at things the same way. We all exist, but are not all existentialists. We are all thinking subjects but we do not all embrace subjectivism. We all have relatives but are not all relativists. Keeping the above in mind, the dominant ism of American culture, the ism reflected in the news media, the film industry, the novel, and the art world is secularism. Secularism is the umbrella that shields the various competing philosophies beneath it. Secularism has the necessary common denominator to tie together humanism, pragmatism, relativism, naturalism, pluralism, existentialism, and several other ―isms‖. What then is secularism? What gives it the glue necessary to unify the other isms? To understand secularism as an ism we must first look at its root, secular, before we can see what magic is performed upon it by the addition of the suffix ism.


Secularism: ―Ignoring the Eternal‖ The word secular has its origins and its roots in the Latin language and comes from the word saeculum which means ―world‖. Historically, the word secular is a positive word in the Christian‘s vocabulary. The church has always had a good view of that which was regarded as secular. In the Middle Ages, for example, men were ordained to a specific role in the priesthood that was called the ―secular priesthood.‖ These were men who had responsibilities which took them out of the institution of the church to minister in the world where there were specific needs requiring the healing touch or the priestly mission of the church. There is another Latin word tor ―world‖, mundus. One notable place it is used is on the tombstone of Athanasius, a fourth-century bishop who was a leading defender of the faith. His tombstone read, Athanasius contra mundum – ―Athanasius against the world.‖ If both words saeculum and mundus, mean ―world,‖ what is the difference? The people in the ancient world understood that, as human beings, they lived in time and space. We still talk that way. Our life is spatial, geographical. There is a certain ―whereness‖ to our lives. We live within a time frame; Jesus talked about ―this age,‖ the present age. So in Latin the word for this world, in terms of time is saeculum. The word for this world, in terms of space, is mundus. The secular refers then to this world in this time. Its point of focus is here and now. The accent of the secular is on the present time rather than on eternity. I live right now. I can look at the clock and watch the second hand move. I can hear it ticking. The question we ask is this: Is that all there is? Is there only time? This time? This secular moment? Or is there something else? Is there eternity beyond this world and this time? What we are really asking is, is there a God beyond this world who has always existed and will always exist? Does my personal life extend beyond the limits of this world?


We could ask the question in another way. Where will you be one hundred years from now? Five hundred years? What will you be doing then? Perhaps you‘ll say, ―I‘ll be dead, but some of my genes will still be around in my great-grandchildren.‖ Secularism Versus Christianity This is precisely where Christianity and secularism collide. This is the point of conflict. The biblical world view has a long-term view of human life. The term is much longer than that of secularism. For secularism, all life, every human value, every human activity must be understood in light of this present time. The secularist either flatly denies or remains utterly skeptical about the eternal. He either says there is no eternal or, if there is, we can know nothing about it. What matters is now and only now. All access to the above and the beyond is blocked. There is no exit from the confines of this present world. The secular is all that we have. We must make our decisions, live our lives, and make our plans, all within the closed arena of this time – the here and now. That obviously brings conflict with Christianity. In the New Testament the biblical world view is always concerned with the longterm. The Bible teaches us that we are created for eternity. The heart of the New Testament message is that Christ has come to give us a life that wells up into eternal life. The startling news is that we will get out of this world alive. The biblical starting point for understanding the world is found on page one of Genesis. We read, ―In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth‖ (Genesis 1:1). We look at the earth and we see that it has a beginning in space and time. But before there was even a world, there is One who transcends the world, One who is outside of the restrictions of this space and time order that we call the world – namely God. ―In the beginning, God.‖ At the core of our Christian faith, we believe in a God who is beyond the confines of this planet and who is eternal. All judgments that God makes, all things that He does are done from the perspective of the eternal.


The admonition and rebuke that Christ brings to this world is that men are only thinking of the short-term. They are thinking of the now and only the now, instead of the long-term consequences of their behavior. Jesus says that He comes from above. He descends from the eternal realm. He calls the Christian to live his life in light of eternity. A Christian‘s values are to be measured by transcendent norms of eternal significance. If there is one message that I can give to the present generation it is this: right now counts forever. What you and I do now has eternal significance. The now is important because it counts for a long, long time. The secular is important because it is linked forever to the sacred. Naturally, I am acutely aware that we, as Christians, are being pressed on every side by the philosophy of the secularist. The secularist declares, ―Right now counts for . . . right now!‖ There is no eternity, there is no eternal perspective. There are no absolutes. There are no abiding principles by which human life is to be judged, embraced, or evaluated. All reality is restricted or limited to the now. As such, secularism as an ―ism‖ must include within its world view at least an implicit atheism. The death of God, in terms of the loss of transcendence and the loss of the eternal also means for us the death of man. It means that history has no transcendent goal. There is no eternal purpose. The meaning of our lives is summed up by the ciphers on our tombstone: ―Born 1925, died 1985.‖ We live between two points on a calendar. We have a beginning and an ending, with no ultimate significance. Life is to be consumed in the present. Our philosophy must be a philosophy of the immediate. The secularists of Jesus‘ day summed up their philosophy like this: ―Eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow we die.‖ Contrast that with Jesus‘ words: ―Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.‖ Think in terms of eternity. Think of the long-range implications. This touches us most directly, not simply in how we handle our bank accounts, but


at the level of how we invest our lives. Life is an investment and the question that modern man has to answer is, ―Am I going to invest my life for short-term benefits or for long-term gains?‖ Every time we are faced with a moral decision, with the temptation to do something now that may have harmful aftereffects, we are caught in the tension between two world views. Moreover, to put it more bluntly, if a Christian buys into secularism his world view is no longer Christian. If a secularist buys into Christianity he is no longer a secularist. It was Aristotle who said that in the mind of every wise man resides the corner of a fool. Perhaps inside the head of every fool resides the corner of the wise man. In biblical terms foolishness is deemed a moral act as well as an intellectual one. It involves more than mental error, it is also wicked. We are not to suffer fools gladly. Yet there are times we can learn something even from the fool. The secularist reacts negatively to religious people who are ―so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.‖ He reacts against a kind of distorted religious faith that neglects the vital concerns of this world. And, in a sense, he is correct because such a standpoint cannot be found in the New Testament. The Christ of Scripture was profoundly concerned with this world. This world was the site and purpose of the Incarnation. The God of heaven so loved this world that He sent His Son to redeem it. This is the world God created. This is the world God is redeeming. There is no other theater of God‘s redemptive action than this world. There is a profound sense in which we are called to be secular people. There is a tendency for Christians to seek shelter in the temple. The disciples wanted to stay on the mount of transfiguration. At the death of Jesus they huddled in the upper room with the doors shut because they feared the Jews. Jesus sent them down from the mountain of transfiguration. He virtually broke down the door of the upper room to send them to the uttermost corners of the earth. Our Lord had no time for isolationism. He had an agenda for the world.


Luther also argued that a mature Christian must be secular in the sense that he must embrace the world. He detected a normal pattern in a growing Christian. The pattern begins with conversion, often followed by a sense of withdrawal from and rejection of this world. This period of retreat is marked by preoccupation with spiritual matters. But at the point of maturity there must be a kind of re-entry into the world. This is not a return to worldliness. It is not a fall into secularism. It is a new appreciation of the world as the theater of redemption. It is recognizing that this is our Father‘s world and not a place to be despised or ignored. The Christian must distinguish between the secular and the sacred but never separate them. To separate them is to deny the agenda of Christ. The voices of the theologians who go too far in embracing secularism serve as a warning to us. They don‘t separate the secular and the sacred; they confuse them. They stress the now and neglect the eternal. We must guard against stressing the eternal so much that we neglect the now. A Christian world view must be concerned with the temporal and the eternal. There must be no false dichotomy between the two. At the core of our moral behavior are actions. Every action not only has a cause, but also a result. Results, or consequences, take us to tomorrow and beyond. What did Macbeth say? Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time.‖ But for the Christian, there is no ―last syllable of recorded time.‖ Our lives are forever. Beyond the secular or saeculum there is the eternal that is what the Christian faith is all about. Why should a person be worried about salvation in terms of personal redemption if there is no eternal dimension? What is the mission of the church if secularism is correct? Why should we be concerned about the redemption of individuals if there is no tomorrow? All we can really do is minimize pain and suffering for a season. The secularist can never offer ultimate answers to the human predicament because, for him, there are no ultimate answers – because there is no ultimate realm. This side of eternity is the exclusive sphere of human


activity. It is not by accident, as we will see, that most of those who accept secularism and who are thinking people, ultimately embrace a philosophy of despair. That despair will manifest itself in escapism through drugs, alcohol, and other forms of behavior that dull the senses from the message that is being proclaimed, indeed screamed, from every corner of our culture. ―There is no tomorrow ultimately.‖ It is a philosophy of despair and it is right now competing for people‘s minds in the United States. In the sections to follow, we will be looking at the elements that make up secularism: secularistic existentialism, secular humanism, and positivism. Although these different philosophies may seem to be on a collision course with each other, they all embrace one common point, namely, the denial of the transcendent and the eternal. Look for it in your culture. Be aware of it when you see it. We need to understand this world and this society in which we live.


Pessimistic Existentialism: ―Nothing Plus Nothing Equals Nothing‖ ―Man is a useless passion.‖ These words penned by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre provide the model of modern existentialism. In this simple statement are found the most basic elements of a modern theory of man. It is a bottom-line judgment, a grim conclusion to the question, ―What‘s it all about?‖ In its most basic definition, existentialism is a philosophy about human existence. It views man not so much in terms of his mind or his soul, but of his will, his feelings. Man is a creature of passion. He feels strongly. He cares about life. He cries, he sings, he yearns, he curses. Human life cannot be reduced to elementary structures of biology. Man cannot be understood simply by his intellectual activity. It is his passion that makes him a man. In former days when we wanted to know a person‘s views on a particular topic, we would pose the question like this: ―What do you think about that?‖ Now the question is usually stated differently: ―What do you feel about that?‖ The accent has changed from thinking to feeling. Feelings have become the new standard of human ―truth.‖ Even our ethics are decided by the litmus test of passion. Our moral creed is ―If it feels good, it is good.‖ Or ―It can‘t be wrong when it feels so right.‖ To test objective truth by subjective feelings seems at first glance as a rather bizarre way of going about things. But think (or feel) about it for a moment. If man is a passion, then his passion must be his most important standard. A man lives every moment with his feelings. We respond to life from a feeling level. Our guts lead our minds more often than our minds lead our guts. Sartre was not suggesting that man no longer has a mind or that man never thinks. He knew better than that. Rather, it is a matter of accent. Paul Tillich spoke of God in terms of ―Ultimate Concern.‖ Concern or caring is central to an existential view of the world.


To understand the philosophy of existentialism we must know a little bit of its background and what provoked it. In the past some philosophers were fond of creating massive systems or theories about man and his world. The goal was to achieve and objective view of the essence of humanness. Man sought to stand aloof from his own concerns to reflect on who he is. But there is something terribly dry and dull about the concept of humanness. What is humanness? Are you a humanness? Even if we consider a more common term such as humanity we are left with the same problem. Humanity is a kind of ―man-ingeneral.‖ Does anybody want to be a ―man-in-general‖? Words like humanness, humanity or man-in-general are abstractions. They lack life. When we seek to define man in ―objective terms‖ we often overlook the sense in which man is a subject. Even the very term ―man‖ can provoke an allergic reaction. The reaction comes not only from women who are angry about being subsumed under the broader category of man, but also from males who are existentialists. The protest of the existentialist is this: There is no such thing as man, only men and women. The words man and mankind are what philosophers call ―universals.‖ Again, they are abstract concepts about a group or a class. When societies place the stress on groups or classes usually the individual person gets lost or eclipsed. The personal element is obscured by abstract universals. An abstract universal is an attempt to get at what we call the essence of a thing. We know that there are men. But why to we call men, men? There are only individuals and each individual person is different from every other individual person. Yet there are similarities among individuals. Most of us have two arms and two legs, a nose, a mouth, and ears. But so do baboons. What happens if we lose a leg? Do we stop being men? When we try to define a human being, we try to isolate the unique factors that make us human rather than baboons or daffodils.


We are looking for the ―essence‖ that makes us human rather than something else. What is this common essence that we share as human beings? Plato wrestled with this problem in the ancient world. He sought for a definition of man that would set him apart from all other creatures. He thought he had discovered an acceptable definition when he called man a ―featherless biped.‖ The definition worked fine until one of Plato‘s enterprising students threw a plucked chicken over the wall with a sign attached to it that read, ―Plato‘s man.‖ Existential philosophers are not satisfied with defining man as a plucked chicken. They are not fond of any definition of man that leaves us in the realm of abstract ―essences.‖ The axiom set forth by Sartre was that existence precedes essence. It is the existence of man (or more properly ―men‖) that matters, not some abstract essence. Of course existential philosophers still speak of man-in-general. It is difficult to escape it altogether. Our opening quotation from Sartre bears witness to that. Remember the quote? Man is a useless passion.‖ Sartre did not say, ―Men are useless passions.‖ In this quotation Sartre began with essence rather than existence. But again, the accent, the point of concern is with concrete existence rather than with abstract essence. There are different types of existential philosophers. We will examine later those who have tried to combine existential philosophy with Christianity in an optimistic way. Our concern for the moment, however, is with the pessimistic variety. Sartre does not rest with saying that man is a passion. He stresses the morbid conclusion that he is a useless passion. Here‘s the crux of pessimistic existentialism. The term useless is ominous. It rivals its synonym futile for being one of the most terrifying words in the English language. That my passions should be useless or futile is to force me to despair. It is not by accident that the word despair is a much used term in existential literature.


Useless passions are passions that are futile. They have no meaning. Sartre‘s grim conclusion is that all of our caring, our concerns, our deepest aspirations are empty of significance. Human life is meaningless. It is a cosmic joke and the cold, impersonal, indifferent universe is the comedian. It would be better for us if the universe were hostile. At least we could be involved with an enemy that might possibly be vanquished or persuaded to be more friendly. But an indifferent universe is a universe that doesn‘t care. It doesn‘t care, because it cannot care; it is impersonal. Is There Anyone Who Can Help? Our dilemma is this: We are caring persons living in a world that doesn‘t care. We cannot look above the universe or outside the universe to find someone who cares. There is nobody out there; there is nobody home in heaven. The father of pessimistic existentialism was Friedrich Nietzsche, who was famous for penning the slogan ―God is dead.‖ Nietzsche took the philosophy of secularism to its logical conclusion. He understood that if this time is the only time, and this world is the only world, then there is no God. If there is no God, then life is meaningless. If all of human existence is shut up in the here and now, then all human values are arbitrary. If there is no exit to the eternal, then values and truth and ethics are a matter of pure decision. Right and wrong are simply what we have the courage to decide they are for ourselves. Nietzsche made a distinction between what he called ―herd morality‖ and ―master morality.‖ Herd morality is the morality practiced by the masses. It is based on the conventions of a society. People obey these societal rules and taboos like unthinking cattle. They go along with the herd, never asking penetrating questions about the rules of the game. They are like Americans who accept without criticism cultural contradictions. They never dare to tell the emperor that he has no clothes. They allow themselves to be ruled by the whims of the rulers.


For Nietzsche the true existential man, the authentic man, creates his own morality. He refuses to follow the herd. He is his own master, a ―Superman.‖ He is the heroic sort who sails his ship into uncharted waters and builds his house on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. He is defiant toward conventions. He dares the lava to flow down on his roof. The Nietzschean hero is like a character in a Hemingway novel. He is the old man who challenges the sea, the soldier who ignores the tolling bell, the matador who grabs the bull by the horns, the man not intimidated by the slopes of Kilimanjaro. But Nietzsche also understood that even his ―master,‖ his heroic Superman was destined to meaninglessness. Death guaranteed it. Nietzsche‘s brand of existential philosophy is called nihilism, which literally means ―nothingness.‖ If there is ―nothing‖ out there, then nothing really matters. Life is the tale of the idiot, full of sound and fury, full of passion, signifying nothing. It is a useless passion; it is futile fury. Why Has Existentialism Spread So Rapidly? Philosophical concepts usually take many years to ―trickle down‖ from the scholars to the layman. It is usually a long and slow journey from the ivory tower to Main Street. A philosophical perspective set forth in abstract, academic writings will normally not attract popular attention or have much influence in a society until long after the originator is dead. In our lifetime, however, there has been a notable exception. The rapid spread and enormous impact of existential philosophy upon our culture has been uncanny. I doubt if there has been any philosophical system that has had as much influence on American culture in the twentieth century as this school of thought. We encounter the influence of existentialism virtually every day of our lives and in virtually every sphere of our culture. Few people can define it or articulate its theory, but we are living under its influence every day.


Why has existentialism moved so rapidly from the theoretical level to the grass roots of our culture? First, it is because the chief advocates of existentialism have not only been brilliant technical philosophers, but they have also included some extraordinarily gifted men who have been able to translate their ideas into a more popular medium. Notable among these was Sartre who, on the one hand could produce a thick volume of weighty philosophy called Being and Nothingness and yet take those same heavy ideas and disperse them into the culture through the media of plays and novels. Albert Camus, another Frenchman, was able to communicate his existential views through his essays and novels. He was concerned with individual freedom and responsibility, with the alienation of the individual from society, and with the difficulty of facing life without belief in God or moral absolutes. He expressed his concerns in novels, such as The Stranger, The Plague and The Fall, and in his play Caligula. A second reason existentialism has made its influence felt is that the philosophy is itself, by definition, hostile to systems. It is an antisystem. It thrives not so much on an interconnected, coherent, well-related world view, as much as it builds upon singular flashes of insight, brilliant vignettes drawn form the close regions of daily life. Ultimately existentialism has made its powerful presence felt by abstract questions because it speaks directly to the human predicament. Its emphasis, as the name implies, is on human existence, on real, passionate life. Here we have a philosophy that touches us where we live. Existentialism made its impact felt most heavily in America after World War II. Sartre and Camus had been deeply involved in the war in Europe, working with the underground resistance movement in France. When the atrocities that were associated with the Holocaust in Western Europe were exposed, a mood of despair enveloped the continent. The philosophers looked at the atrocities of Buchenwald, of Auschwitz, and elsewhere and said, ―This is what man is capable of


dong.‖ The spirit of optimism that had characterized the nineteenth century was suddenly plunged into despair. Sartre‘s plays did much to communicate the motif and mood of despair. He wrote one novel that bears the simple title, Nausea. This was his evaluation of modern man. Sartre argued that religious faith is irrational. It involves accepting what is ―absurd.‖ Existential philosophy took root in artists‘ colonies, crossed the Atlantic and took up residence in the United States. One notable home was Greenwich Village, New York, with its ―beatnik‖ movement and the ―beat generation.‖ The ―beat generation‖ communicated some of the basic ideas of existentialism through art, poetry, literature, film, and theater (most notably the ―Theater of the Absurd‖). Indeed, the arts have been major vehicles to communicate the ideas of existentialism to American society. Meaning traditionally is communicated by words or pictures that are easy to understand. The new message from the art world was: Life is meaningless. It is not a symphony; it‘s a cacophony. There is nothing that brings the universe together in a coherent fashion. Our universe is speeding away from rationality towards irrationality. Religious movements also sprang up that embraced existential principles. Zen Buddhism was one such movement. It was the first significant penetration into Western culture from oriental religion. Zen is not pure Buddhism but an existential variety. In Zen, a person is to discipline his mind so that he can come into touch with his inner self. The person is to seek intuitive understanding of a larger ―awareness.‖ Yet this awareness yields the conclusion that life is irrational. It cannot be found in orderly systems. God is one hand clapping. In the film industry, the existentialist viewpoint brought a noticeable shift in plots and storylines. It used to be that drama and the pathos of pain and death were followed by a happy ending. But now Hollywood picked up on the existentialist theme and began producing films of despair. The heroes began to wear black hats. The


new era of realism was ushered in on Marlon Brando‘s motorcycle. The hero became an antihero. War was no longer glamorized. The most obvious change in films came with respect to sex and violence. Here the passions of man were de-romanticized. It was a long way from the scandalous suggested rape in Duel in the Sun, and the beach scene in From Here to Eternity to Deep Throat and The Devil and Miss Jones. Sex changed from an integral part of love to a base animal drive. Graphic violence made an obvious transition from The House of Frankenstein to Scarface. Another theme that appears frequently in existentialism is captured by the German word Angst (anxiety). Modern philosophers have done extensive investigation into the human feelings of anxiety. These are not specific anxieties such as a fear of flying or a fear of heights or of closed-in spaces. Those are traditional fears that have specifications attached to them. The Angst about which the philosopher speaks is an undefined, faceless, amorphous type of anxiety which hangs over us and eats away at us. We can‘t really put our finger on what it is that is unsettling us inside. The most important philosopher who has dealt with this anxiety is the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. In 1927 Heidegger wrote one of the most important books of our century, titled Sein and Zeit (Being and Time). We traditionally use the word for being to describe the life of person; he‘s a human being. The German word for ―being‖ is sein. Heidegger does not talk about sein. Instead, he talks about dasein. In German the prefix da means ―presence.‖ It can be used to mean ―here to there.‖ Heidegger doesn‘t speak simply about human beings; he talks about human beings here or human beings there—here a being, there a being, everywhere a being. The idea that he stresses is that the life of every human being is defined by its finite boundaries, where he is. He lives his life not in the theater of eternity; he lives it in Philadelphia, Paris, Berlin, or wherever he is. We use statements like, ―Here‘s where it‘s at.‖ Our life is defined by where we are. In the big picture, Heidegger uses another German word that is very graphic. He said that the reason man experiences anxiety and dread is that man


lives in his finite boundaries as a result of what Heidegger calls the experience of ―throwness.‖ Modern man experiences being thrown into existence. We try to convince ourselves that we came into being by an orderly process. But our experience suggests that the process was not really orderly. We feel like we were hurled into the world, just thrown into it. We had no choice about where we were born or who our parents would be. Our existence may be compared to a baby who is thrown into a turbulent sea and told to ―sink or swim.‖ Man has been hurled into an impersonal universe where nobody is at home. We are expected to carve out our own existence and live between twin poles of nothingness. We come from nothing and we are destined for annihilation. We understand this intuitively. It eats away at us; we‘re afraid to talk about it. It produces Angst, a nagging anxiety about who we are and why we‘re here. We are concerned about it, but we see no solution to it. A final theme found in existentialism is that of freedom in the absolute sense. As Nietzsche‘s Superman creates a master morality so the existential person must carve out his own destiny by being morally autonomous. He must learn to be a law unto himself. He need not submit to norms because there are no norms. He is not only free to do his own thing; he is responsible to do his own thing. ―Authentic man‖ looks into the pit of despair, into the black void of nothingness, and sees that life is hopeless and meaningless. Nevertheless, he chooses not to succumb to it or surrender to it by seeking the safety of the group and its conventional values and institutions. Instead, he has the courage to exercise his own absolute freedom. He takes sole responsibility for his actions. The courage for such decisions is a strange sort of courage. The existentialist calls it ―dialectical courage.‖ A dialectic involves a severe tension, a tension provoked by an irreconcilable contradiction. Dialectical courage, then, means ―contradictory courage.‖ It is contradictory because it follows a bizarre sort of syllogism:


Life is meaningless. We must face life with courage. Our courage is meaningless. We are called to heroic acts of courage with the full knowledge that such acts of courage are themselves meaningless. ―Be of Good Cheer—The World Has Overcome Us‖! Here we see the vivid contrast between pessimistic existentialism and Christianity. Christianity also features a ringing call to courage. The most frequent negative prohibition found in the New Testament comes from the lips of Jesus—―Fear not!‖ This command is given so often by Christ that it almost seems like a greeting. One gets the impression that virtually every time Jesus appears to His disciples, He begins the conversation by saying, ―Fear not.‖ Here is the difference between the message of Jesus and that of existentialism. Jesus said, ―Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.‖ The existentialist declares, ―Be of good cheer, the world has overcome us.‖ Jesus gives a reason for good cheer. He was not a first century ―positive thinker‖ spreading sweetness and light with saccharin frivolity, singing, ―Don‘t Worry, Be Happy.‖ His exhortation to joy was based on a real triumph, an ultimate victory He achieved over the threatening forces of chaos. The contradictory character of existentialism was mirrored in the protest movement of the youth counterculture in the sixties. Two slogans became popular: ―Do your own thing!‖ and ―Tell it like it is!‖ On the one hand there was a massive revolt against traditional values and a call to radical subjectivism. The subject does his own thing. There are no objective norms to obey. On the other hand the summons to the older generation was to objective truth telling. ―Tell it like it is!‖ The slogan suggests that there is such a thing as objective reality, what Francis Schaeffer called


―true truth.‖ The youth were angry with their elders for being hypocrites, for living contradictory lives. At the same time the young people were exalting the ―virtue‖ of living contradictory lives. The contradiction appeared at another level. At the same time the students were denying classical personal ethics by embracing the sexual revolution and the drug culture, they were screaming for a lofty social ethic with respect to civil rights, world peace, and ecological balance. They wanted a world with love including ―free love‖ with no private responsibility; a world without killing, except for unborn babies, and a world where the environment was pure of toxic substances, except for the ones they uses on themselves. With the impact of existentialism on American culture a serious attempt was made to achieve a synthesis between Christianity and existentialism. Instead of looking to the pessimistic heroes of the movement, the nineteenth-century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard became the focal point of interest. Kierkegaard was seen as the father of Christian existentialism. Kierkegaard‘s emphasis on personal passion struck a chord in the hearts of Christians. He differentiated among levels or stages of life. The level where most people live is either at a moralistic one or what he called an ―aesthetic‖ level. The aesthetic level is the stage of the observer or the ―spectator.‖ The spectator looks at life but stays on the sidelines. He avoids passionate involvement in life. Kierkegaard understood profoundly that Christianity is not a spectator sport. It demands passionate commitment. Christianity can never be reduced to cold, abstract creeds, or rational systems of doctrine. Truth is not always found in neat packages. It is often paradoxical, according to Kierkegaard. He spawned on the one hand a renewal of personal commitment to Christ, of Christians plunging into the work of Christ with passion. He also spawned a movement in theology that exalted the irrational. The contradiction became not only acceptable to theologians, but desirable. ―Systematic‖ theology suddenly became suspect because it


sought a kind of consistency and coherency that left no room for contradictions. The orthodox man was aware that contradictions are unintelligible. No one can understand them, not even dialectical theologians. When we use them we are revealing our confusion, not our brilliance. A final element that grew out of religious existentialism was a new stress on human personal relationships. Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, stressed the importance of what he called, ―I-Thou‖ relationships. People are not things. They are not impersonal objects to be studied dispassionately. They are not numbers. We use things. People are not meant to be used. When I relate to another person I am not relating to an ―it.‖ Human relationships are to be subjectsubject, not subject-object. The I-Thou concept helped awaken a new consciousness to people as people. Jews are not cattle to be exterminated by a ―final solution.‖ Blacks are not ―niggers‖ to be treated as chattel. Women are not sexual playthings to be used as toys. There must be no such thing as a ―Playmate of the Month.‖ Here was a solid protest against the widespread depersonalization of culture. The theologians who sought to combine existentialism and Christianity gave us a mixed blessing. They were correct in seeing that Christian faith demands personal passion. They were correct in stressing the personal element of human relationships. They were correct in seeing that the Christian faith is more than rationality. Sadly, however, too often they threw out the baby with the bath water. Their protest against rationality became too severe. Their antisystem perspective began to wallow in contradiction. Surely Christianity is more than rationality. But it is not less.


Sentimental Humanism: ―All You Need Is Love‖ In our discussion of contemporary culture in the United States, we now turn our attention to humanism. Humanism is an ancient philosophy that has gone through many stages and changes. It is difficult to define humanism because it is such a broad philosophy and contains so many different elements. A major problem in understanding humanism is that, as a term, it is often confused with another well-known word, humanitarianism. Some people use humanism as though it was a synonym for humanitarianism, but they are very different. Humanitarianism refers to a concern people have to care for the welfare of human beings. Anyone who cares about people and who does things to help the cause of people could be called a humanitarian. Humanism seeks to be humanitarian as well, but humanism, as an ―ism,‖ is a philosophy that is much more specific than simply having a care or concern for the welfare of mankind. Judaism cares for human beings; so does Christianity. Even communism, as an ―ism,‖ at least expresses a concern for the welfare of mankind. People differ radically as to whether or not it succeeds in its humanitarian considerations, but communism at least professes to be humanitarian. Humanism, however, is a philosophical system and not merely a concern for or an attitude toward the well-being of mankind. Humanism has a long history. We usually trace its beginnings to ancient Greece, to the pre-Socratic philosopher Protagoras. Protagoras developed a concept of humanism, which he set forth under the motto homo mensura. This motto of Protagoras has become a rallying cry for later generations of humanists. It means ―Man is the measure.‖ The idea is that man is the measure of all things. Man, in himself, is the ultimate norm by which values are to be determined. He is the ultimate being and the ultimate authority; all reality and life center upon man. In philosophical language we find another word to describe humanism: anthropocentric. To understand this word, let‘s break it


down. From centric we get center. Anthropos comes from the Greek and means ―man.‖ For example, anthropology means the ―study of man.‖ Something that is anthropocentric is centered on man or man centered. Christianity, by contrast, is ―theocentric.‖ It is God centered. In the Christian faith, God is the absolute being and the absolute authority. We can see in this difference of terms an inherent tension between Judeo-Christianity and humanism concerning their center of focus and emphasis. In history, forms of humanism have subsisted where there was a belief in God. However, for the most part, God‘s activity was restricted to being the Creator of the natural realm and natural forces. (The religion that appeared in the older varieties of humanism came in through the door of ―naturalism‖ which says there is a God but not a God who is involved supernaturally with this world.) Earlier forms of humanism acknowledged some kind of power or force from which nature comes, but the center of attention and the center of value was man. It is not the character of God or the being of God that is the measure; man is the measure. Humanism involves a conscious alternative to supernatural Christianity. It sees itself as a competitor to the church. In 1961 the Supreme Court of the United States defined humanism as a religion (Torcaso v. Watkins). There have been many kinds of humanists. There have been optimistic humanists and pessimistic humanists, benevolent humanists with respect to the church and religion, and militant humanists who have vigorously opposed any kind of coexistence with Christianity. It is important to notice that the rallying cry of contemporary humanism tends to be more militantly opposed to the church and to Christianity than were earlier varieties. In the development of humanism, the sixteenth century was significant. That period witnessed a great debate between two intellectual giants that reflected the struggle going on in Western civilization. These two men, Erasmus of Rotterdam and his antagonist,


Martin Luther, represented the conflict between humanism and biblical Christianity. Erasmus was considered the prince of Renaissance humanism. His motto was the phrase ad fonts. Ad fonts means ―to the source‖ or ―to the sources.‖ What had happened in the Renaissance was the rebirth or the rediscovery of learning. There was a renewed interest in the ―golden age‖ of ancient Greek culture, and a rediscovery of Plato, Aristotle, and the great minds of antiquity. Renaissance humanism went back in history and tried to discover the highest expressions of human culture and to give rebirth to civilization. They returned ―to the sources‖ or the foundation of Western culture. What is often overlooked, however, is that even though Erasmus wrote satirical essays critical of the Roman Catholic Church, he still remained a member of that church and included the importance of religion in his philosophical system. His call ―to the sources‖ was not merely to renew the study of Greek and Roman theories, but was also to go back to Judeo-Christian sources. He was the one who promoted the movement to recover the ancient languages of the Bible. In fact, Erasmus the humanist was the single most important individual in the reconstruction of the Greek New Testament in his century. This work came to be known as the Textus Receptus, which was the Greek text upon which the King James Version of the Bible was based. Earlier humanists tended to view religion as one aspect of the general growth and development of the human race. Religion was viewed as part of man‘s experience; part of what it means to be human is to be involved in some kind of religious aspiration. Religion has contributed certain values in the human race. The early humanists saw value in religion, but had no commitment to the absolute authority of the Word of God in the life of the people. Man-Centered Humanism Versus God-Centered Christianity The struggle between Luther and Erasmus in the sixteenth century was symbolic of the deeper struggle between Christianity and humanism. We can say that the battle was won by Luther and the


Reformation. By the seventeenth century, the tide began to turn. As we move into the eighteenth century and the period of the Enlightenment, we see humanism beginning to prevail over the church as a dominant cultural influence in the shaping of men‘s ideas. This influence shaped what has been termed ―the modern mind.‖ This is important to understand because we are living in a culture in which we are bombarded every day by values and concepts that come out of humanistic philosophy. Keep in mind the fundamental point of antithesis that exists between classical humanism and Christianity, between that which is man centered (anthropocentric) and that which is God centered (theocentric). The nineteenth century manifested a movement of another kind in the form of cooperation between religion and ancient humanism. We see this particularly in a theology that is called ―liberalism.‖ The word liberal is a perfectly good word. It means one who is free thinking; one who is open and tolerant; one who is scientific and responsible. Indeed, the word includes all of those elements that we regard from a Christian perspective as being virtuous. I hesitate to use the word because everyone has a different idea about what it means to be ―liberal.‖ There are different kinds of liberals and there are different kinds of liberalism, but when we are talking about liberalism in theology, we are talking about a distinctive movement. In this movement we saw an attempt to reconstruct Christianity on a basis of naturalism. Its thrust was to extract from the New Testament anything that was of supernatural flavor: miracles, the Resurrection, the Atonement of Jesus, the Transfiguration, and the Virgin Birth. For some reason, a strong focus emerged on the Virgin Birth of Jesus. The debate on the Virgin Birth, however, was not a debate over one small point of Christian faith. It was a debate on principle. It was a debate between supernaturalists and naturalists over the incarnation of Christ. This was the issue that became public, but the nineteenthcentury debate was far bigger than the question of the mode of Jesus‘ birth. It had to do with the clash between biblical, supernatural


Christianity and those who wanted to reduce Christianity to its social and ethical aspects. Emil Brunner, the twentieth-century theologian, said that nineteenth-century liberalism was nothing more and nothing less than unbelief. Though Brunner was not an ardent defender of Christian orthodoxy, he was critical of liberalism for going too far. Liberalism had surrendered the essence of Christianity. Here was the crisis: People came to the conclusion that the Bible did not come by divine revelation but simply reflects primitive man‘s self-understanding of his religious experience and of his values. The Bible was seen as being interspersed with saga and legend and mythology. It expresses the views found in a primitive people in a prescientific culture. An entire school of theologians came to the place of crisis. Think about this crisis in practical terms. They no longer believed in the Resurrection of Christ. They no longer believed in the Virgin Birth of Christ. Historically, the church was built upon its outspoken commitment to a supernatural God and a supernatural Christ who was born by miracle, who died a death that is of cosmic significance in atonement, and who was raised from the dead. The New Testament itself says that without the Resurrection the Christian faith is futile. Paul understood this as early as the first century. He said, in effect, ―Take away the Resurrection and it‘s the end of the church.‖ Now there was a group of theologians in the nineteenth century who no longer believed in the Resurrection. What were they to do? What happens to people in a crisis like That? What do men do if they realize that they do not believe the New Testament portrait of Jesus? Some argue that integrity demands that they withdraw from the church. But the problem in the nineteenth century was not limited to a few people. There is a sense in which, in the academic circles of theology in Western civilization, nineteenth-century liberalism began to control many of the educational institutions. The crisis mushroomed to a grand scale. Liberalism still had a ―biblical message.‖ The church had a remarkable platform from which to bring about social change—as


an institution it had a place as a part of human culture. Tens of thousands of churches existed throughout the world, representing billions and billions of dollars invested. The church still had an agenda. Clergy still had a function to perform that would keep them gainfully employed. All that was necessary for the church to survive the crises was a change of focus. Now the accent would be on man‘s condition in this world. Nineteenth-century liberalism saw a shift of concern from personal, supernatural redemption from sin and alienation from God to what was called ―the social gospel.‖ The social gospel extrapolated the ethical teaching of Jesus from the supernatural background of the biblical documents. Those who accepted this social gospel said, ―We don‘t believe in the supernatural, but we still believe in the values and the ethics of the New Testament. The church still has a reason to exist. The church still has a viable ministry to carry on. All we have to do is change the message and change the structure.‖ Modern Humanism Is Anti-Christian Not everyone in the church accepted that view, of course. A fierce battle ensued as liberalism in the church brought on the so-called ―modernist controversy.‖ It is important to note that humanists and liberals became allies because the humanism of the nineteenth-century variety still saw religion as valuable. It saw religion not necessarily as valid but valuable, insofar as it called men toward higher virtues. The humanists embraced important virtues in their commitment to human dignity. They believe in compassion, service to mankind, honesty, industry, hard work, freedom, democracy, and so on. All of these ideals of the humanist were also ideals of the Christian. There was a point of contact and an arena of mutual cooperation. Modern versions of humanism tend to be more militant regarding Christianity. The clearest statements of the tenets of modern humanism can be found in three brief documents, each about twelve to twenty pages long: A Humanist Manifesto (1933), Humanist Manifesto II (1973), and the Secular Humanist Declaration (1980). All three documents affirm the following key aspects of humanism:


--the natural world is the only one we can know; the here-and-now is all there is; --insight, intuition, and divine revelation must be tested by reason since truth is best discovered rationally; --mankind is the only source of morals and value, and the highest human achievement is to improve the human condition; --the future will be better if people proceed ethically and rationally; --democracy in all aspects of life is to be strived for, as a means of enhancing personal freedom. If we read these documents, particularly the second and third, we will see in them a spirit of hostility directed against the Christian faith. Why this change from the earlier cooperative spirit? Since the nineteenth century, various thinkers like John Dewey emerged and said that ―religion tends to hinder the evolutionary progress of man.‖ The humanist dream is to rid the world of pain and suffering by man‘s efforts through education, technology, and industry, but principally through higher education. Religion, in the modern humanist view tends to keep people in a conservative frame of mind, holding on to outmoded and antiquated values. It tends to make people conservative rather than progressive. At the heart of humanism is a strong commitment to progress. As humanism has developed it has become organized, with its own meetings and conventions, and its periodicals, such as The Humanist. In short, humanism in America is a philosophy, a general attitude, and an organized movement. Why Humanism Is Irrational From a Christian perspective, what is the struggle with humanism in our culture? In Western humanism as we know it, the ethics or values of Christianity were borrowed by the humanists and then ripped off their Christian foundation (which is the character of God and the person of Jesus Christ). It is important for us as Christians to be compassionate to the sick and to the poor. We have a duty, a moral obligation, to minister to those people. God has commanded it. But


humanism retained these concerns while denying their theological foundations. They want to retain much of the ethic of Christianity while rejecting the Christ of Christianity. They select a portion of Jesus‘ message while rejecting Him. The humanist lives on “borrow capital.” He rejects the foundation upon which his values are established. Francis Schaeffer said, ―The humanist has both feet firmly planted in midair.‖ Schaeffer went on to warn, ―Unless humanism is stopped, it intends to beat to death the [Christian] base which made our culture possible.‖ Basically, the true humanist does not worship. The consistent modern humanist is atheistic. Consistent humanism must be atheistic. Those who still try to worship are often found in groups such as the Unitarian Church. Unitarianism is a clear example of humanistic philosophy blended with religious liturgies. But humanists also worship in the mainline denominational churches. Humanism has had such an impact on our culture that many church members have embraced it without being aware of it. Humanism is fundamentally irrational. Once its values are stripped from their theological foundation they have no platform upon which to rest except sentiment. The irony of our culture is that humanism has become the dominant philosophy of intellectuals. This is a strange turn of events. It is not by accident, however, that the loudest critics of humanism have been the pessimistic existentialists. Their judgment upon humanists is focused in one word: Naïve. It is a harsh judgment more than implying that humanism as a philosophy is the quintessence of stupidly. Why? Examine for a moment (that should be all it takes) the central themes of humanism: Man is a cosmic accident. He emerges from the slime by chance. He is a grown-up germ. He is moving inexorably toward annihilation. Yet man is the creature of supreme dignity. He lives his life between two poles of meaninglessness. He comes from nothing; he goes to nothing. His origin is meaningless, his destiny is meaningless.


Yet, somehow, between his origin and his destination he acquires supreme dignity. Where does he get it? Out of thin air. The thinking humanist (if there is such a thing) must be a nervous humanist. He suffers the tension of the small child who has already eaten his cake and wants it too. What reply can the humanist give to the critic who asks, ―What difference does it make if black germs or white germs sit in the back of the bus? Why should we care for the poor? Dignity is an illusion. It is at best a sentimental dream. If I am a cosmic accident why should I not just sleep in tomorrow morning? Humanism is intellectually untenable, but it is emotionally attractive. Why? Because we are anthropoids, we are men and women and we want to believe that life has some meaning for us. To the thinking person, humanism gives no reason, ultimately, for ascribing value and values. Values become preferences rather than principles. The modern humanist recognizes that. He says flatly, ―That‘s what we have. We don‘t have any principles, we have preferences.‖ My fear of humanism is this: When preferences become ultimate, then whose preferences become ultimate? Historically, in every case, values based simply on preferences end in some form of statism. The Decisive Battle: Public Education The focal point of my concern as a Christian comes at this level. The principal vehicle for the dissemination of humanist philosophy is the public school system. This is the clear strategy of the humanist. He insists that the only way we can progress is by educating people. If humanistic philosophy is going to shape the values of modern man it must capture the institutions of education. Humanism has done a masterful job of that capture. Indeed, the dominant influence on public school education in the United States today is humanistic philosophy. We must remember that humanism is a world view. It shares the skepticism and agnosticism with respect to God found in secularism. It has retained enough common virtues and ideals to be easily confused with Christianity, especially by children. Modern humanism is getting


progressively more hostile toward Christianity, particularly at the level of public education. It is almost impossible to miss that point in the present cultural climate. The battle between the Christian and the humanist is being fought and will continue to be fought in the arena of education. The first creed of humanism was not that of Protagoras, homo mensura. The first creed was uttered much earlier. Ironically it was not uttered by a human, but by a serpent. His Creed was sicut erat dei—―you shall be gods.‖


Pragmatism: ―Made in the USA‖ ―If it works use it‖ captures the spirit of pragmatism. This is a philosophy that is stamped with the words: ―Made in the USA.‖ The term itself tends to be less obscure than terms such as existentialism or secularism. The word pragmatic is more common in our vocabulary. Pragmatism is a category of the broad philosophical perspective of secularism which we looked at earlier. While most of the philosophical movements that affect our society have been transported from Europe, pragmatism is home grown. It was born and raised in the United States and reflects something of the genius of American culture with its emphasis on practicality and expediency. If pragmatism had a motto, it would be: ―Where there‘s a will, there‘s a way.‖ One man who sees pragmatism as the dominant influence in our society is Dr. Harvey Cox. In his book, The Secular City, Cox called attention to the tremendous change that has taken place in Western civilization, a change from a society that looked to God for its values to one that has abandoned the eternal as its point of reference. We no longer anticipate ―The City of God‖; rather we look for a present day ―secular city.‖ In his book, Cox attempted to evaluate American culture according to theological, sociological, and anthropological categories. He made some important observations about our society. He discussed the shape of America as well as the style of America. He pointed to pragmatism as the dominant influence shaping the American style of life. Cox wrote, ―Urban secular man is pragmatic. He devotes himself to tackling specific problems. He is interested in what will work to get something done. He has little interest in what has been termed borderline questions of metaphysical consideration.‖ Modern man wastes little time thinking about ultimate or religious questions. The pragmatist is basically either skeptical or agnostic about man‘s ability to discover ultimate truth. What the pragmatist says is, ―I don‘t have time in my life to figure out all the mysteries about ultimate reality and ultimate purpose that religion and philosophy have been traditionally concerned about. I have to be busy with living.


My life involves encountering a myriad of problems and I need to find solutions to those problems.‖ In other words, the spirit of pragmatism today is the spirit of problem solving. The realist is portrayed as the man who is asking, ―What works?‖ He is not concerned with what is interesting or pleasing to the intellect in terms of theory. He is concerned with that which brings results. As a formal philosophy, pragmatism originates from skepticism about metaphysics or theology. What do we mean by metaphysics? It is an everyday word for philosophers but it is not a word that we find in the daily television soap operas. Metaphysics differs from physics; it is the study of that which is above and beyond physics. Metaphysics looks beyond what can be seen and observed in the sphere of natural science. It asks questions such as what is ultimate reality? Is there a God? These are metaphysical questions. For centuries men have sought to unravel the mysteries of metaphysics. During the period of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, philosophers glorified reason and the scientific method. This was followed by a period of skepticism, particularly during the nineteenth century. At the same time, enormous advances were being made in man‘s ability to cope with his world. These advances came in the shape of the Industrial Revolution, breakthroughs in science and medicine, and the harnessing of new forms of energy. The hostile forces of nature were being tamed. We Look to Science to Solve Our Problems Modern man looks to the scientific community to solve his problems. Cancer, heart disease, arms control, and a sound economy are the issues we are concerned with. We don‘t look to God to solve our problems. We look to science or government to come up with the solution. There is a point of confusion between Christianity and pragmatism. In our common language, we use the term pragmatic as a synonym for the word practical. We want to be ―practical.‖ The desire to be ―practical‖ is as intense among students of theology as it is


among engineers. We know that in the final analysis God cares profoundly about what we do. He is concerned about our practice. The Bible often refers to the importance of our practice. ―By their fruit you will recognize them‖ (Matt 7:20 NIV). Our practice reveals most clearly what we think and what we believe. The pragmatist desires to be practical; so does the Christian. In this discussion, however, we must be careful to distinguish between being practical and being pragmatic; to distinguish between being practical and being pragmatic; to be practical does not require that we embrace pragmatism as a philosophy of life. The conflict between Christianity and pragmatism arises precisely at the point of practicality. The issue focuses on the question, ―What is ultimately practical?‖ Ultimate practicality is defined as ―practicality in the long run.‖ It is the question raised by Jesus, ―What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?‖ (Matt 16:26). To gain the whole world is practical. It ―works‖ to our advantage to show the ―whole world‖ as an asset on our balance sheet. Everything looks good until we examine our liabilities. If the words ―my soul‖ appear in the loss column there is not much joy in the profits. Sinners in hell have little interest in the stock market. Gaining the whole world is a short-term matter; losing one‘s soul is a long-term problem. What seems practical at first glance may be extremely impractical in the final analysis. The question we must ask is this: Is there a final analysis? Pragmatism has no room for a final analysis. It shares the skepticism of secularism about the realm of the eternal. Knowledge of the supernatural is closed out to us. The pragmatist is concerned about right now. What works now? Never mind the forever part. Christianity is rooted in the teaching of Jesus and Jesus stressed a final analysis, a last judgment where every human being will be held accountable by a supernatural God. When Jesus said, ―Take no thought for tomorrow . . .‖ He was addressing the problem of our human anxieties regarding the future. He was not advising us to ignore eternity. 58

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul declares that man does not see fit to take seriously the knowledge of God he has. He does not approve of the idea of spending much time learning about the character of God. Therefore, God gives man over to a ―reprobate mind‖ to do those things which are not proper. Paul then concludes the chapter with a catalogue of vices that includes murder, strife, covetousness, gossip, hatred of God, disobedience to parents, maliciousness, malignity, and so on... The apostle makes the point that there is a causal relationship between our thinking and our behavior. When man will not have God in his thoughts, that lack is immediately reflected in what man does. If we think that God is not worthy of our consideration, then that view will have a major influence on our thoughts and our style of life. Not everybody is oriented to theory and speculation. But everybody is involved in practice. Philosophers and non-philosophers alike have to live. We are all involved in the practice of living. But whether we have a sophisticated developed philosophy or not, how we behave is the clearest expression of what our theories really are. No one operates without a theory of life, a system of values. We may not be able to articulate ours; we may not be able to write an essay about it; but we do have a value system. In our minds, we have a theory about what is good and what is not, what is valuable and what isn‘t, and we act accordingly. The conflict between pragmatism and Christianity arises because pragmatism is a theory of truth. Practicality becomes the key test for truth. Is Truth That Which ―Works‖? We have our theories and must test them to see whether or not they are valid or false. The pragmatist‘s theory of truth is, ―Truth is that which works; the good is that which works.‖ Inherent in this view is a skepticism toward ever coming to an understanding of eternal norms. One of the great ironies of American history occurred at Harvard University in the nineteenth century. Students of philosophy who


specialized in concerns of a metaphysical nature formed the Metaphysics Club. Three classmates who were members of that club— William James, Charles Pierce, and Oliver Wendell Homes—became, along with John Dewey, the leading spokesmen in America for the philosophy of pragmatism. The irony is that, historically, pragmatism grew out of this group at Harvard who were committed to the precepts of metaphysics. The Metaphysics Club produced a violent antimetaphysical philosophy. Out of a growing spirit of skepticism toward understanding eternal norms, these men began to look for an alternative approach. They said, ―We can‘t know ultimate truth; we can‘t know ultimate values. We can‘t go to the other side of the wall so we are stuck living here on this side. So, how do we know what is right? The answer is by experimentation.‖ To see how this was applied by one of this group, look at William James, one of the most widely read American philosophers. How did James approach religion? He has written a classic called the Varieties of Religious Experience in which he analyzes our experience with religious belief. Suppose you were a Christian and you went to Dr. James to describe your faith. You would go to his study and he would say, ―All right, tell me about your Christian experience.‖ You would tell him that you grew up in such and such a home, and that you had a crisis experience when you were twenty-one and were converted to Christianity. He would begin to probe to see how your inner feelings changed. He would ask, ―Has this been a positive experience for you or a negative one?‖ You would answer, ―It has been a positive experience for me.‖ So James would respond, ―For you, religion works. It helps you cope. It helps you make it in this world. So for you, religion is good and religion is true.‖ Up to this point, James‘ analysis says nothing about whether or not there is a God. The earlier pragmatists believed that there was a God but that we could not know very much about him. They thought that the corporate experience of mankind tended to validate the idea that there was a God. In later periods, pragmatists moved from that


view toward a more atheistic bent. Their consistent concern, however, was not whether there is such a thing as ultimate truth (because we can‘t know it, they said) but rather what works? This view embraces a kind of relativism toward truth and goodness. Thus, pragmatists can say things like, ―for you God is true and for me there is no God.‖ What is happening here? Truth is being redefined. Truth, classically, corresponds to objectivity, to what is real. However, in pragmatism, truth is now determined by what works for me or for you. Which is true? Well, they are both true, says the pragmatist. But what if I don‘t want to have a discussion about what works? What if I want to discuss the objective reality of whether or not God exists? If there is no God then all my prayers, singing, and believing could not conjure one up. I do not have the power to create God. I can create religion and my religious experience may be quite meaningful to me. It may ―work‖ in the sense that it provides a bromide to help me cope with life. But it can never work to create a God if, in fact, there is no God. On the other hand, if there is a God then the atheist‘s unbelief or disinterest in Him does not have the power to destroy Him. If the atheist finds no personal meaning in God, God‘s life is not thereby in jeopardy. The atheist is still accountable to God and will eventually face God. What appeals to or ―works‖ for the atheist has no possible relevance to the actual existence or nonexistence of God. In pragmatism truth is inevitably relativized. It must be if there is no exit to the ultimate realm of the eternal. One of the things that bothered John Dewey was the constant accusation by his critics that pragmatism was subjective. He did not appreciate the charge but he was never able to escape it. The criticism was valid. If truth is determined by what works for the individual, then the test for truth ultimately becomes the individual himself. Pragmatism Focuses on the Short-term


For example, suppose a student is having trouble in college. He has a long-range goal to become a doctor and commences his training to that end, but he begins to struggle and grows disappointed with college. He decides to go out and get stoned on drugs. As soon as he uses the drugs, he is rid of the pain of his depression and is no longer upset about his future. He‘s floating around in space and if you asked, ―Do you think this is good?‖ he would respond, ―Yes, it has solved my problem.‖ This illustrates the second chief criticism of pragmatism, namely that it tends to focus on short-term consequences or on what is expedient. In pragmatism, as in all world views, truth and goodness are closely related. When the pragmatist declares that something is true because it works he is making a thinly veiled statement about goodness. When we say that something ―works,‖ what do we mean? We mean that it achieves a good result. When my car won‘t start I think that‘s bad. When it starts I am pleased. I say, ―That‘s good.‖ We assign a positive value to what works. We are saying that it is better that the car starts than that it fails to start. We won‘t get much debate about the good result of a car‘s starting. But matters become far more complex. What is a good economy? How do we know if it is working? Is it good when everybody has the same amount of money or when the money is unequally distributed? We can have an economy where everyone is starving, but they are starving equally. They are equally poor. Or we can have an economy where everyone is eating, but some are eating better than others. Which is better? Our answer will depend on how we define the good. Is good defined by the degree of distribution of wealth or is it defined by the standards of living? How does the pragmatist decide? ―The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number‖ At this point pragmatism usually opts for a sister ―ism‖ called utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is concerned with utility, with what is useful. Here the accent is not on the individual but on the group. The slogan of utilitarianism is ―The greatest good for the greatest number.‖ Utilitarianism faces two severe problems. The first is the same problem of defining the ―good‖ as we‘ve already examined. To know 62

what is good for the group may be as difficult or more difficult than defining what is good for the individual. By asking the question, ―Good for whom?‖ we have merely postponed or evaded the question, ―What is good.‖ The second problem with utilitarianism is the problem of justice. Is justice good or not? Does justice matter? Is justice restricted to the greatest number or is it to be sought for all? Consider this scenario. Three men are in a room. One of them is a farmer who has worked hard to plant his crops and bring them to harvest. His earnings from his crop are $10,000.00. The other two men are bums who have not worked and who have no money. They decide that the farmer should give each of them $5,000.00. They argue that it is good on the basis of utilitarianism. The result is that each of the two bums walks out the door with $5,000.00 in their pockets. The farmer walks out with nothing. We have just witnessed the greatest good for the greatest number. The plan ―worked‖ for the two bums. It wasn‘t so practical for the farmer. I was the greatest harm to the smallest number. Never mind that justice was denied. To say that truth is that which works is not enough. We must have standards or norms that rise above either individual or group preferences. Without such norms tyranny is inevitable, either by the imposition of personal preferences of the individual or the coercive imposition of the preferences of the group. Tyranny is no less tyranny if it is democratic rather than autocratic. As Americans, our motto is ―The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.‖ This is part of our national heritage and it is a product of our results orientation. But the problem with pragmatism is the same as that of humanism in that both live on borrowed capital. Even the pragmatists themselves recognize it. William James said, ―Truth is the cash value of an idea.‖ Along the way we select values, not knowing whether they are true or not. We borrow them, and then we try to ―cash them in.‖ When they work they have cash value. The difficulty in this whirlwind approach to problem solving is that our quick solutions tend to leave us with new problems (e.g., social security).


A Pragmatic Solution? For the pragmatists, every end is a means. There are no ultimate goals. Every end is a short-term end, and that end becomes a means to another end, and so on, but you never get a final solution. It is frightening that the Nazi Holocaust was called by Eichmann ―the final solution.‖ The Jewish ―problem‖ was solved by extermination. That was a pragmatic decision. Too often, when we think only in the short term what is the result? Soon we have not one problem but four. We solve the four and end up with eight. We solve the eight and now we have sixteen. Eventually, by exponential growth, the problems of the culture escalate and explode and bring the society crashing down. The Bible says truth is that which works, but that which works must be measured by the eternal norms of God. The real conflict between Christianity and pragmatism is the conflict between what is right and what is expedient. Josiah Roy said, ―If you want to see how pragmatism degenerates at the ethical level, consider the oath that a person is required to give on the witness stand in a court of law, and change it to pragmatist categories. ―‘Do you swear to tell the expedient, the whole expedient, and nothing but the expedient, so help you expediency?‘ It was the philosophy of pragmatism with which Satan tempted Jesus. ―Jesus, you are surely not going to go to Jerusalem and go to the cross,‖ suggested Satan. ―That‘s not very practical. It is certainly not the expedient way. Surely there is an easier way to redeem the world.‖ How else did pragmatism influence the cross? The principal spokesman for pragmatism in the first century was a man by the name of Caiaphas, the supreme rabbi of Jerusalem. What was his advice? Did he not say, ―It is expedient for us that one man die for the good of the nation‖? The Romans must be appeased. He did not ask if Jesus was guilty or innocent or whether this action was right or wrong. He was operating on a purely pragmatic basis.


It is easy to point fingers at Caiaphas and Satan and Karl Adolph Eichmann. If we want to see something disturbing, during one week we should write down every time we make an ethical decision on the basis of expediency. The pressure to do so is overwhelming. We start compromising and then compromise some more until we are merely an echo of everything that is around us. We become part of the problem of human society instead of part of the solution.


Positivism: ―Seeing is Believing‖ When we enter a discussion on the world view of positivism we are engaging in a topic that few people outside of the academic world are aware of. I am sure that if we took a poll at midday on a busy street corner and asked the question, ―What is positivism?‖ the majority of people would respond that it means ―having a positive mental attitude.‖ Positivism, as a philosophy, has little to do with ―positive thinking.‖ Its architects are not Norman Vincent Peale or Robert Schuller. Its content is not an upbeat antidote to negativism. Auguste Comte is the person usually associated with the founding of positivism as a philosophy. Comte, a French philosopher, lived during the first half of the nineteenth century. He sought to discover ―laws‖ that he believed governed the development of a society. Although not as well-known as Freud or Marx or Kierkegaard, Comte had a vision for the complete reformation of human society. He saw himself as a reformer. He sought to bring about changes that would reflect the progress which Western civilization had undergone. The progress had accelerated through the period of Enlightenment and into the scientific and industrial revolutions of the nineteenth century. Comte wanted to see all of society transformed by a new kind of philosophy that he called the ―dominance of scientific knowledge.‖ He wanted to see a culture and a society established scientifically rather than philosophically or theologically. We recall from our previous discussion about secularism the difference between the eternal realm land the temporal realm. The key emphasis of secularism is that man must live his life in the now. Man has no access, no point of entry, to the eternal, transcendent realm. We mentioned the problem that thinkers have wrestled with throughout history: How do we make sense out of all the particulars that we encounter in our lives? We see dogs, we see trees, we see kangaroos, we see rivers, we see rocks, we see hills, and we see people. Each of these particular entities that appear before us in this world of space and time we call a phenomenon. A phenomenon is a


data bit, a unit of experience that we observe. The word phenomenon (or, the plural, phenomena) has to do with things that we can see, that appear to our senses. The questions of ancient philosophy were, How does this all fit together? Is there anything that unifies the phenomena of the world that we experience? Historically, men have sought to harmonize or unify all of these data bits by pointing to some kind of transcendent point of unification. For the Christian that one being who makes sense and integrates and coalesces all of the different phenomena is God. The logical answer to sense and coherence is established by the doctrine and existence of God. Philosophy tries to establish some point of reference in an abstract principle, such as reason or mind. The quest for ultimate truth in philosophy is called the science of metaphysics. It goes beyond the physical realm that we can see and measure. Thus, metaphysics is a philosophical attempt to bring sense and coherence out of all the incongruous elements of this world. Comte was seeking to bring together the disparate pieces of the social world. He claimed that just as there is a natural law that governs planetary motion, there is also a natural law of society. Just as in biological evolution where there is a movement from the simple to the complex, a movement from the simple to the mature, so also there are similar laws that work in the development of a society. Comte said that man is going through stages in his own societal progress. He goes through infancy, then through adolescence and then he reaches his adult phase of maturity. This is not only true of individuals, said Comte, but it is also true of societies. His panoramic view of Western history is that mankind has gone through three stages of development. The first stage is the infantile stage where people sought a theological or religious answer to the meaning of life. In the early development of Western civilization, religion dominated the shaping of culture because man superstitiously attributed the unifying force of his world to the person of God. As man began to grow up, he passed through his earlier stage of infancy moving into adolescence. He became a little more sophisticated. He moved away from religion


and theology into the metaphysical stage. Now he had a more complex and more abstract system of reason. He can only reach adulthood, however, when he recognizes that the world is to be understood not by religion or by philosophy, but by science. We need a new society established on the basis of science rather than religion or philosophy. God Cannot Be Known Comte shared the skepticism of other earlier thinkers. Together they agreed that the whole realm of the eternal or transcendent is unknowable. We cannot get over the wall or around it so that man is left to understand himself and his world on this side of the barrier in the world of phenomena. There is no ―uni‖ to the ―universe‖. ―Universe‖ is a combination of unity and diversity. The classical model had all of the diversity of this world unified ultimately in God or in some abstract principle. This was not so for Comte. For him there is only diversity, not unity. Science considers simply the particulars of this world. Comte said that there is only one absolute principle and that was that there are no universals. The only absolute, he said, was that everything is relative. So Comte is absolutely saying that there are absolutely no absolutes except the absolute that there are absolutely no absolutes. Everything is relative. Comte tried to translate this into a workable religion. He tried to establish what he called the ―religion of humanity.‖ In the middle of the nineteenth century in London, the positivists who rallied around Comte built what was called the Positivist Temple in Chapel Gate. Thomas Huxley, the famous English scientist and lecturer, responded to Comte‘s philosophy by saying, ―What he has given Western civilization is simply Catholicism minus Christianity.‖ That was a summary dismissal of Comte‘s new religion by Huxley. By calling it Catholicism minus Christianity, he was saying, positivism was religion without God. It was a religion based upon science and the scientific control of our environment with man at the center. Logical Positivism


Comte tends to be obscure to the general population, although he must be studied if one is a technical scholar in the history of philosophy. But his impact went far beyond his own personal version of what positivism should look like. One of the dominant forces in philosophy early in the twentieth century was built upon the nineteenth-century foundation of positivism. It was more sophisticated and was called ―logical positivism.‖ It became one of the most important and most dominant philosophical movements in this century. Let me digress here to say that the two most influential twentiethcentury schools of philosophy in our society have been existentialism and analytical philosophy. If someone wanted to study in a graduate school of philosophy today, most likely the motif in that school would be what is called analytical philosophy. Analytical philosophy is not the same thing as logical positivism, but it is the outgrowth of it. Logical positivism emerged as a philosophical force largely in the 1930‘s and 1940‘s. It had its roots in a group of thinkers who banded together in Vienna, Austria, in the 1920‘s, calling themselves the Vienna Circle. The Vienna Circle was a group of European mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers who sought to eliminate the influence of metaphysics and theology on culture. They wanted to free science altogether form any dependence on philosophical systems and allow science to reign supreme. They were convinced, from a scientific perspective, that debating the issue of the existence of God was a waste of time. There was a sense in which the logical positivist of Vienna tried to cut the Gordian knot and simply say, ―All conversation about God, whether, He exists or doesn‘t exist is meaningless. They believed the very word God was a meaningless word. What Constitutes Meaning? If somebody came to you and said, ―The word God is absolutely meaningless,‖ what would you say? Does the word God mean anything to you? Many people have died for the sake of the name of God. When you say that God is meaningful and the positivist says that it is meaningless, the difference might be because you are working with different criteria as to what constitutes meaning. This is what the 69

logical positivists were trying to do. They were trying to establish the rules of meaning—how we decide whether something is meaningful or not—and they wanted to develop scientific methods to do this. The great emphasis on logical positivism was the establishment of what was called the Law of Verification. This law, simply stated, is ―No statement is meaningful unless it can be verified empirically.‖ (Logical positivism is sometimes called logical or scientific empiricism.) To verify something means to show that it is true. If someone claims something to be true and that claim can be examined and determined to be true, we say the statement can be verified (shown to be true) or falsified (shown to be false). How do we verify the truth of the statement, ―A triangle has three angles,‖ or the truth of the statement, ―A husband is a married man‖? We know a husband is a married man because the word husband means ―a man who is married.‖ A husband, by definition, is a married man. A triangle, by definition, has three angles. I do not have to see one or put one into a laboratory. I don‘t have to use binoculars or my microscope to find out that two and two are four, because the idea of ―fourness‖ is found in the idea of ―two-and-twoness.‖ Those statements are what we call analytical; they are true by definition. With analytical statements the subject and the predicate can be reversed without changing the meaning of the statement. Let us examine one of our examples again: A husband is a married man. (subject)


In this statement, ―husband‖ is the subject and ―a married man‖ is the predicate. If we reverse the subject and predicate we get: A married man is a husband. (subject)


There is nothing contained in the term husband that is not already found in the concept a married man.


Analytical statements are what we call tautologies. A tautology provides no new knowledge. By saying that a husband is married, we have not learned anything new. To say that a triangle has three sides means we have not added anything to our knowledge. To add to knowledge, we must synthesize. We have to find out not only that a triangle has three angles but that it is either gold or silver, that it is big or small, or whatever. The idea of bigness or smallness is not found in the triangle. A triangle can be big or small. I can say to you, ―There is a BIG triangle out there in the field.‖ If we want to verify that, we will have to look to see whether or not there is a big triangle there. Let us examine synthetic statements further: The husband is fat. (subject)


This is a synthetic statement. The predicate adds something that is not necessarily found in the concept of the subject. We cannot reverse the statement and say the same thing. Fatness is a husband. (subject)


Science is interested in extending our knowledge beyond analytical statements. It is seeking truth. How do we know if statements are true? It is easy with analytical statements because they are true by definition. Saying ―a husband is a married man‖ is true in the sense that husbands are, by definition, married men. We are still left with a problem: How do we know that there really are such things as husbands? The simple definition of the word husband does not guarantee there are, in fact, husbands. For example, we may define a unicorn as a one-horned horse. We know that all unicorns are horses with one horn, and that all onehorned horses are unicorns. But that doesn‘t mean that unicorns exist. The statement may be logically ―true,‖ but we still haven‘t moved into the world of reality.


Let‘s take the problem one step further. Suppose we say that: God is a self-existing eternal being. What kind of statement is that? It is analytical. It is a tautology. We can reverse the subject and predicate without changing the meaning of the statement. We could say: A self-existing eternal being is God. The meaning is the same. But wait a minute. What if there are more than one self-existing eternal beings? That would mean simply that there are two or more gods. If a being is self-existing and eternal then it is entitled to the title God. But don‘t some people say that God is not self-existing and eternal? Don‘t people worship things that are created? Yes, of course. Lots of things are called God and are not God, but whatever is selfexisting and eternal is God (if we define God as a self-existing eternal being). Does God Exist? The big question remains. Is there, in reality, such a thing as a self-existing eternal being? What we‘re asking is, ―Does God exist? (a major philosophical issue now enters the discussion.) The question is: ―Is existence a predicate?‖ The logical positivist insists that it isn‘t. There is a big difference between the mere idea of a unicorn and a real unicorn. The difference between an imaginary unicorn and a real unicorn is the difference of existence. Is God merely an imaginary idea or a real being? Logical positivism says that we cannot know that merely by thinking about it or talking about it. When we say God exists, we are no longer in the realm of the analytical. Existence adds something new to the idea of God. Here is the crux of the matter. To say that something exists is to make a synthetic statement. Synthetic statements are not ―true‖ by definition. They must be verified another way. The Law of Verification insisted that statements must be verified empirically or they are meaningless.


What is empirical verification? Empirical verification means verification by the senses. That is, to verify something empirically we must be able to see it, hear it, taste it, touch it, smell it. For example, if I say, ―There is gold in Alaska,‖ how can we know if the statement is true or meaningful? The statement is not a tautology. The word Alaska does not contain within it, necessarily, the idea of gold. Our statement, ―There is gold in Alaska,‖ means that real gold exists in Alaska. To verify the statement we must find gold in Alaska that we can see or touch. To falsify a statement can be easy analytically but very difficult synthetically. For example, if I say a triangle has four sides or a husband has never been married (not even by common law) my statements are falsified. They are false by definition. It is like saying, ―The circle is square.‖ When we move to the realm of the synthetic, matters become more difficult. Suppose I say, ―There is gold in Antarctica.‖ Now I have big trouble. I can verify the statement if I find gold in Antarctica. If I find the gold the statement is proven true. But what if I don‘t find gold? How much of Antarctica must I examine before I can say, ―There is no gold in Antarctica‖? Every square inch. Suppose I do that and find no gold. Has the claim ―there is gold in Antarctica‖ been falsified? No. It has not been verified, but it has not been falsified either. Perhaps in my examination of Antarctica I overlooked something. We can never falsify the possible existence of something empirically because our empirical powers are always finite and subject to error. But simply because something has not been falsified does not mean that it is thereby verified. Christians need to learn this. Often we hear the debate about the existence of God go something like this. The skeptic says to the Christian, ―You cannot prove that God exists.‖ The Christian responds, ―You cannot prove that He doesn‘t exist.‖ Such a response is a cop-out by the Christian. The Christian should take little comfort from the idea that the nonexistence of God cannot be proven. We cannot prove that ghosts who are allergic to scientists and all scientific instruments of detection do not exist. But no one can verify


their existence either. We can structure our definition of ghosts or of God in such a way that it is neither possible to verify or falsify their existence. What logical positivism tried to do was establish the rules of verifying truth and meaning. The Law of Verification was their golden rule. Statements were regarded as being meaningful only if they were analytically true or could be verified empirically. The statement ―God exists‖ was judged meaningless because it was incapable (in their judgment) of being verified logically. The problem with the Law of Verification was that it was too narrow. It was too restrictive. Statements like ―I love you‖ cannot be verified empirically, but people consider them meaningful. However, ―I love you‖ is not the sort of statement the scientists were concerned about. It is an emotive statement. A Positivist House of Cards The most severe and ultimately fatal problem with the Law of Verification was that it said too much. It ruled out too many statements as meaningless. It was literally suicidal. It killed itself. If the only statements that are meaningful are those that are analytical or can be verified empirically then what happens to the Law of Verification? The Law of Verification itself is neither analytical nor can it be verified empirically. Therefore it must be judged meaningless. It is ironic that the cardinal rule of meaning according to positivism was itself unverifiable and meaningless. The positivist house of cards collapsed by its own weight. Though philosophers have largely rejected the narrow Law of Verification it has made an enormous impact on our culture. At the popular level of culture we live with the slogan ―seeing is believing.‖ A kind of religious aura has surrounded the scientific community. Physicians have become the new high priests of the culture. Psychiatrists have become the new experts on morality. Ethics itself is being reduced to measurable feelings. Guilt itself is becoming a crime. A battleground has emerged between the Christian community and a kind of scientism. We see it in the fierce debates over evolution


versus creationism in the public schools and court decisions regarding abortion. Who decides when life begins? Life has lost its theological definition. Unborn babies are considered meaningless blobs of protoplasm. For the most part the Christian community has surrendered science to the pagan. Logic, reason, and empirical investigation are the tools of the ―world.‖ The Christian lives sheltered in his fortress of faith. A recent novel contained dialogue between a scientist and a priest. The narrator commented, ―The scientist set forth his reasons and the priest confessed his faith.‖ In this scenario reason and faith are enemies. The Christian is called to choose faith over reason. We call this ―fideism‖ or ―faithism.‖ An appeal is made to the New Testament to justify the unconditional surrender of reason and empirical evidence. The Bible says, ―Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen‖ (Hebrews 11:1). In this passage faith is contrasted with evidence in things that are seen. On the basis of this passage some have concluded that: Faith = belief in things unseen Knowledge = evidence of empirical things The conclusion then is that ―All faith is based on something other than empirical evidence.‖ Thomas is viewed by the fideist as the original logical positivist. He invented the modern creed when he declared ―Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe‖ (John 20:25). Thomas was from Missouri. For him, seeing was believing. He viewed faith as something to be based on evidence, not something to be believed against the evidence. He saw a radical difference between faith and credulity, between faith and fideism. What was Jesus‘ response to Thomas? ―Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet


have believed.‖ (John 20:29 NIV). Here the words of Jesus seem to carry at least a mild rebuke. This encounter certainly seems to suggest that something is wrong with demanding evidence for faith and something virtuous about believing without evidence. But does it really? The entire ministry of Jesus was ablaze with empirical evidence. He did miracles which were ―signs‖ of His identity. Peter declared, ―For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty‖. (2 Peter 1:16). John wrote, ―We beheld his glory‖ (john 1:14, italics added). Jesus Appealed to Empirical Evidence The biblical record of the existence of God and the truth claims of Jesus appeal again and again to empirical evidence. It is based on what is seen with eye and heard with the ear. Why then does the book of Hebrews speak of faith as evidence of the unseen? The author of Hebrews had no intention of divorcing faith from reason or faith from empirical evidence. Faith is based upon evidence; it is based upon what is seen, but it goes beyond what is seen. In summary it works like this. We trust Christ, who is seen, about matters which are unseen. God displays Himself in creation. He reveals Himself in history. History is the arena of the seen. But much remains unseen. For example, I cannot see tomorrow. No crystal ball is strong enough to see the future. But God knows the future. When God tells us about the future we trust that what He is saying is true. We cannot see it. We have no empirical data available to us from the future. But we believe God‘s Word about the future because in the past He has proven Himself; both rationally and empirically to be utterly trustworthy. Our faith in the future is established by the evidence of the past. Scientific predictions can and have been wrong. God‘s predictions cannot be and have never been wrong. To trust God in matters of things unseen is not a matter of blind faith. It is not credulity. It is a reasonable faith. Indeed, to not


believe one as well attested as God for the future is to crucify the intellect. It is foolish not to trust Him when He has evidenced Himself to be utterly trustworthy. In the final analysis positivism offers a truncated science, a science so limited in scope that it ignores the wider realm of truth. It seeks to make science independent of other closely related fields of inquiry. It cuts us off from ultimate meaning. If that is what Comte meant by cultural maturity it means we pay an awfully high price to grow up. Perhaps a second glance at history shows the rejection of faith not as a move from infancy to adulthood, but merely as another example of adolescent rebellion, a teenage temper tantrum.


Pluralism and Relativism: ―It‘s All Relative‖ As missionaries attempting to understand the way of thinking in our culture, we must turn our attention to twin topics under the umbrella heading of secularism—pluralism and relativism. Let us think once more of the high wall we examined earlier, the wall representing the line of demarcation separating the present time from the eternal world. It is the barrier to the transcendent realm of unity, the wall that confines and restricts us to this time and this place. We are cut off and isolated from any contact with the eternal world. The transcendent realm is where we find unity. The world in which we live is the world of diversity. Universals are beyond the wall; the particulars of our experience are here and now. The transcendent realm is also the realm of the absolute. This side of the wall is the place of the relative. Unity



WALL Diversity



The basic idea of pluralism is this: We have diversity here in this world. We have no access to ultimate unity, no way to bring the diverse things of our experience into a coherent whole. We have particulars but no universal; relatives but no absolutes. Printed on our currency is the motto of the United States of America, E Pluribus Unum—―From the many, one.‖ It calls attention to the dream of our forefathers that people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds could come to this country from all nations of the world and form one nation. Out of that plurality and diversity of background, unity was to emerge. The idea expressed in our Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence was straightforward. We would have one nation under God. The original assumption of our forefathers was the conviction that there is a transcendent being; transcendent truths would be the basis by which all these disparate groups and ideas were to be unified.


In our present concept of pluralism, we have taken a significant step away from the original idea upon which this nation was founded. Originally, the idea meant to take from the diversity or the plurality and to bring them together into harmony. Now, modern man is saying that he is cut off from God, cut off from the transcendent point of unity. All we have left is plurality. The new motto for this understanding of the culture would read something like E Pluribus Plurus—―From the many, many.‖ In discussing plurality and pluralism, we must distinguish between the two. To speak of a plurality is simply to say there are diverse ideas or peoples or backgrounds. However, as soon as we add that suffix ism to the world plural, we are saying something different. We are now saying that plurality is all that there is. There is plurality but no unity; there is nothing that brings ultimate coherence. It‘s fascinating to recognize certain buzz words that come into fashion from time to time. In the nineteenth century, the word evolution was used as the ―open sesame‖ to a cave full of problems. When we think of evolution, the sciences of biology and anthropology usually come to mind. Evolution is a scientific term to describe the progressive development of a species from its origins. In the intellectual world of the nineteenth century, however, the concept of evolution was not restricted to biology but it was applied widely to many endeavors. All of history was suddenly interpreted in light of the general scheme of evolution. There was a belief in the movement from the simple to the complex, from the primitive to the sophisticated. Theology was examined in the nineteenth century through the lens of evolution. In the ―higher criticism‖ school of biblical scholarship, biblical religion was viewed as a gradual development from a primitive belief in many gods to a higher view of monotheism. This perspective saw the belief in one God as a late development in the history of religion. It was thought to be as recent as the eighth century B.C. with the advent of the Old Testament prophets. Moses, it was said, was not really a monotheist and Abraham was a myth.


The evolutionary approach to the Bible speculated that Jewish religion followed the general pattern of development that went as follows: animism----polytheism----henotheism----monotheism Animism: In this schema all religion is said to begin with animism. Animism is the notion that apparently inert objects are inhabited by spirits. They are ―animated.‖ Trees, rocks, totem poles, and even certain animals are worshiped because they are indwelt by spirits. Normally these spirits are evil spirits. The job of religion is to make peace with the spirits, to ward off their evil power. Primitive people place offerings before these objects, chant to them, and do religious dances around them. Polytheism: The second stage of religious evolution is polytheism. Here the ―gods‖ have separate identities. They are not mere spirits inside of rocks or crocodiles. They normally have a special abode in the sky or on a distant high place such as Mount Olympus. Each nation has its own set of gods and each god has his or her particular function. Think for example of the gods and goddesses of Rome and Greece: ROME


God of War



God of Love



God of Wisdom



Queen of Gods



God of Purity



King of Gods



God of the Sea



Messenger God



Other cultures had similar pantheons. We find them in Egyptian religion, Persian religion, and throughout the ancient world.


Henotheism: Henotheism is a transition stage in the ladder of evolutionary development. It is a sort of halfway house between polytheism and monotheism. Henotheism has one god for a nation or ethnic group. Though many gods exist, each of the gods has his own sphere of dominion. For example, the evolutionists think they observe this in the Old Testament where Jehovah is seen as the national god of the Jews. The other nations have their own territorial gods as well. The Canaanites had Baal and the Philistines had Dagon. These gods enter into the battles between the nations. Monotheism: As the word suggest, monotheism reduces religion to one God who is supreme. He is a high god. He rules over all nations. There are no territorial or ethnic limits to His dominion. He rules over all human activities such as love, war, harvest, and the like. This is the latest and final stage of religious evolution. It is alleged to have come much later than the book of Genesis. The idea that Jehovah was the Creator of the whole world was viewed as a later insert addition to the Jewish writings, a rewriting of their own history by which later monotheists wrote their religion backwards into this history. Not only did evolution influence theology but it also affected theories of politics, economics, and philosophy. All of these disciplines came under the influence of this all-embracing concept during the nineteenth century. Our Lives Have Been Changed by the Threat of Nuclear War In the twentieth century, the buzz word that replaced evolution was relativity. We are all aware of the changes in our lives that have been brought about by the scientific revolution based on Einstein‘s theory of relativity. This is the atomic age. Our lives have been changed by the threat of nuclear war as well as by new possibilities of power from nuclear energy that exist as a result of Einstein‘s work. From the viewpoint of science, relativity simply has to do with description of motion. We can say that motion may be considered from more than one reference point. If I am moving toward you, it does not matter whether my motion is considered from my perspective or from your perspective. We simply have different reference points. In this, there is a sense in which my motion is relative. It is relative to a 81

particular reference point. Thus, relativity in motion is defined or determined by various reference points. There is a big jump, however, from relativity to relativism. It is one thing to say that motion is relative to a reference point; it is quite another thing to say everything is relative. We have all heard the statement, ―Everything is relative.‖ We may even say it. If we do, we are perpetuating a myth of contemporary culture. I call this a myth because it couldn‘t possibly be anything else. If everything is relative to everything else, then there is no ultimate reference point. There is no basis for truth. If everything is relative then the statement, ―Everything is relative,‖ is also relative. It cannot be trusted as a fixed truth. All statements become relative. All axioms become relative. All laws become relative. Relative to what? To other statements, which are also relative. We have millions of ―children‖ with no ―parents.‖ Truth is quicksilver. Some view ultimate or ―absolute relativity‖ (a contradiction in terms) as a major advance in modern science. In reality it is the end of science; the final graveyard of truth. It is one thing to say that for mathematical proposes motion may be considered as relative. But if everything is relative including ethics and values then we are in deep weeds: the kind of deep weeds one finds in a jungle. Consider relativity to ethics. If I don‘t like you and decide to murder you, is that good or bad? Neither. Or both. It‘s relative. For you and your family—your relatives (sic)—it may be considered bad. For me it‘s good since I‘ve destroyed a personal enemy. In a relativistic law court why should a judge find against me? To call my act of murder ―bad‖ would be an arbitrary judgment if everything is relative. That is precisely where modern secular man finds himself. He lives his life with no ultimate, fixed, and absolute reference point that can define his life or the meaning of his existence. If everything is relative, you are relative, and there is no substance to the meaning of your life. The crisis in pluralism is that there is no ultimate point of reference. In relativism, there are particulars but no universals, relatives but no absolutes. This means that we can have values but no Value, truths


but no Truth, purposes but no Purpose. That is, we have no fixed standards by which to measure or to judge values, truth, purpose or beauty. Once we embrace relativism we live in a world of ultimate chaos. Let me try to make this more concrete and relevant to where we live by looking at the effects of relativism in theology in particular. Pluralism in the Church The tragedy of our day is that pluralism has not only been accepted as a working ideology in secular culture, but it has also been widely embraced in the church. You may have heard a congregation or a denomination proudly claim, ―We are a pluralistic church.‖ This means that the church welcomes all different kinds of theology and viewpoints. It is not merely a matter of diversity within unity. The Bible describes the church as a body. It is made up of diverse parts. Each part has an important role to play, an important function to perform. Just as the human body needs eyes and ears and a mouth, so the church needs various parts to it. We have different gifts, different tasks, different personalities. Yet in this diversity is unity. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Ideally, we would all believe the same thing, but we do not all have a perfect understanding of the Bible. The Bible calls us to be patient, tolerant, and kind to one another in many points of disagreement. Yet there is an essential unity to truth. Certain truths cannot be negotiated. Denials of essential truths of Christianity are not to be tolerated in the church. Pluralism suggests more than just diverse opinions in the church. It allows contradictory views of Christ, of God, and of the very essence of the Christian faith. It considers them all to be right. Once a church embraces pluralism it is saying, ―It doesn‘t matter whether we agree on the essential points of the Christian faith, because it‘s all relative.‖ But no church can survive for long in that kind of chaos. In fact, pluralism is the antithesis of Christianity. In pluralism, a view of tolerance emerges with a subtle shift. In classical thought, tolerance, patience, and longsuffering with people who differ from us were Christian virtues. God‘s law requires that we


be tolerant and charitable with each other. But it is one thing to say that all different views are tolerated under the law; and quite another to say that all different views are equally valid. Pluralism says not only are all views equally tolerable under the law, but all views are equally valid. If that is the case, then we are saying that every view has as much validity as its contradictory, in which case truth is slain. Testing truth claims is not even attempted, which is why there is now so much emphasis on the art of persuasion since temporal statistical truth is the best we can manage. We can have truths, but Truth is impossible. Once you realize that you have destroyed truth, even truths are not true, values have no value, purposes have no purpose, and life becomes impossible. We can argue the relative merits of Confucianism and Christianity, but they can‘t both be true at the same time because they conflict. We can argue between Buddhism and Judaism. They can both be wrong, but they can‘t both be right about the ultimate issues in which they differ. Relativism Ultimately Results in Statism Pluralism and relativism have no possibility of being true because, from the beginning, the very possibility of truth itself is eliminated. If everything is true, then nothing is true. The word truth is now empty of meaning. That is why modern man finds himself in a dilemma. He is thrown into chaos long-term, and man cannot continually live in intellectual chaos. There is a sense in which our present culture, more than in any other period in history, is ―up for grabs.‖ When this emptiness has happened in the past, something has come to fill that vacuum. Relativism is ultimately intolerable. What will come to this vacuum is likely to be some form of statism because something has to bring unity. The good of the ―state‖ will likely become the ultimate point of unity. The rapid growth of the centralized state is happening before our eyes in the United States. Consider the areas in which the state functions today where it did not function fifty years ago. Consider the areas where the people of America formerly looked to God for their security, their meaning, and their decision making and now, instead,


they look to the state. This eventually becomes statism, where the state becomes the goal of life. The state unifies, transcends, becomes absolute, and is eternal. The state steps in and says we are going to be united. How? By going to the same schools, by learning the same things, by saying the same words. At the extreme, look at the nation of China, a uniformity by enforced unity. We may say that is the very opposite of pluralism. No, that is the result of pluralism. That is the result of the loss of transcendent unity. The God whom we worship is a God who brings unity, but at the same time preserves diversity. We all have a sinful tendency to force everybody else to conform to us. Even in the church we see this tendency. Yet God has said one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism—but a diversity of gifts and talents, a diversity of personality. Your humanness is beautiful in the intricacies of its diversity, but your humanness also finds an ultimate point of reference in the character of God. Take away the ultimate reference point and humanity itself is demeaned. We cannot live on this side of the wall alone. We are going to either have God on the other side of that wall or we will substitute the state in His place. I challenge you to find one culture in the world where that has not happened. The American government faces a serious crisis. People are demanding from the state more than the state can give. People are looking to the state for salvation. Unfortunately, the state does not have the equipment to save a fallen race. The state exists on this side of the wall. It can never provide ultimate unity for our plurality unless it becomes absolute. Relativism provides a moral vacuum that screams to be filled. As nature abhors a vacuum, totalitarian governments love one. They rush in to fill a vacuum.


Hedonism: ―Grabbing for All the Gusto!‖ Some Americans have never heard the word hedonism but few have not experienced the impact of the philosophy of hedonism in their lives. As a world view, hedonism has as its basic principle the belief that the good and the evil are defined in terms of pleasure and pain. Man‘s ultimate purpose for living is to be found in enjoying pleasure and avoiding pain. The hedonist‘s constant goal in life is to pursue those things which increase pleasure and decrease pain. Hedonism is not new. Historically, its roots go to the earliest times of recorded history. We could trace it to the Garden of Eden if necessary. In formal philosophy, however, hedonism can be traced to the ancient Greek culture, to the school of the Cyrenaics in the late fourth century B.C. The Cyrenaics were what we might call crass hedonists. We have probably seen their philosophy of life portrayed on film, in scenes of Roman orgies in which people indulged themselves in wine, women, and song with reckless abandon. In ancient times, pagans had a festival of celebration for the god of wine, Bacchus. Indulgence was the byword as Bacchus was honored by a wild orgiastic celebration. Hedonism not only became a philosophy in parts of the ancient world, but was actually elevated to the level of a religion. Dionysius was worshiped by means of a frenzied orgy also. He was honored as the one who would give us the ability to break free from the chains that inhibit us. These chains were to be found in our normal states of consciousness and awareness. The Greek philosophers understood that there were limits to what we are able to know through the use of our senses. There was also a limit to the knowledge that we could attain by speculation on the basis of reason. Some sought release from the normal restraints of human knowledge by means of intuition or mystical experience while others worshiped the god that they thought would give them the ability to transcend the normal limits of consciousness.


Dionysius was the god who provided the means. In the state of drunkenness a person became free of the normal inhibitions of waking life. People believed that in a drunken stupor they could make contact with the supernatural world during heir mystical experience of ―euphoria,‖ an experience called not ―getting low,‖ but ―getting high.‖ This meant breaking through the limits and the structures of normal consciousness. Added to this was an array of sexual involvements including temple prostitution. The prostitutes were able to help a person break down his inhibitions so that he could make contact with the gods and experience the feeling of ecstasy that was the release of the soul. The Cyrenaics adopted this crass form of radical indulgence in drunkenness and sex. Epicureans: The Art of Finding Pleasure The Epicureans of antiquity represented the second stage of hedonism. They were sophisticated. Today we often use the term epicurean to describe a person with exquisite taste, one who can identify the finest wines, but who is not himself a drunkard. He has a gourmet palate and understands the intricacies of the culinary arts. He is knowledgeable about the finest clothes and appreciates the finer things of life. A person who is devoted to his creature comforts because he seeks to enjoy life by pursuing a sophisticated level of pleasure. The Epicureans adopted a more refined variety of hedonism. They did so because they learned early the problem with Cyrenaic hedonism, the problem of excess. This problem has been referred to as the ―hedonistic paradox‖: if the hedonist fails to achieve the measure of pleasure he seeks, he experiences frustration. Frustration is painful. If we fail to find the pleasure we are seeking, the result is frustration and pain. The more we seek pleasure and the more we fail to achieve it, the more pain we introduce into our lives. On the other hand, if we achieve all the pleasure we seek we become sated and bored. Boredom is the counterpart of frustration; it is painful to be the pleasure seeker. Again, the paradox: If we achieve what we want, we lose; if we don‘t achieve what we are searching for, we lose. The result


of hedonism is the exact opposite of its goal. Its only fruit is ultimate pain. The Epicureans also understood the price tag of pleasure. Part of the hedonistic paradox is that the momentary enjoyment of pleasure may have painful consequences. The Epicureans understood that if you indulged in too much wine, the result would not be exquisite enjoyment of fine-tasting wine, but the awful hangover of the next day. Likewise, if you overindulged in sexual activities, the odds were greatly increased that you would add venereal disease to your future misery. Overindulgence has its price. Recognizing the price paid for pleasure, the Epicureans tried to create a more balanced enjoyment of pleasure and pain. For example, they believed that one should keep pleasure at a moderate level; just a little bit of adultery is enough to spice up life and keep the excitement flowing in the human heart. Stoics: Seeking Peace of Mind In addition, the Epicureans searched for the same thing that the Stoics sought, but they approached it in a completely different manner. The goal of Epicurean philosophy was the achievement of peace of mind. This quest was not unique to the Epicureans. Doesn‘t everyone want peace of mind? The answer is obvious, but how does one obtain it? The Stoics felt that the only way to find peace of mind was by adopting a philosophy they called ―imperturbability.‖ That means you don‘t let anything bother you. You adopt a ―stoical attitude‖ toward all things. You do not get emotionally involved, you do not get your hopes up, nor do you let your hopes down, but you maintain an emotional state of equilibrium where nothing bothers you. You adopt a detached feeling toward those things over which you have control. This philosophy was based on a very deterministic understanding of the world. That is to say, all things happen by fixed mechanical causes. According to the Stoics, we cannot change things. ―Que sera‟, sera‘‖ (―whatever will be, will be‖) was originally the song of the Stoics. They said, ―The only thing that I have control over in my life is how I inwardly react to circumstance. If I‘m going to get hit by a car this


afternoon, I can‘t help that because I have no control over it.‖ The Stoic sought to master the ability of being ―cool.‖ He would try to not allow anything to shake him up inwardly. The Epicureans approached the search for peace of mind from the other direction. They believed that one could change the state of affairs as well as the events that affect our lives. That happens, primarily, through an active pursuit of pleasure and an active avoidance of pain. Few people in our society will come right out and say, ―Hedonism is my philosophy of life; I live for pleasure and for the avoidance of pain.‖ Hugh Hefner of Playboy might put his name to a philosophy like this, but most people still have a negative opinion of this view of reality (even though we live in a secular environment). Yet in the same breath, we would all acknowledge that there is a little of the hedonist in every one of us. Even the masochist is a hedonist. He is a reverse hedonist, for he seeks to maximize pain, not in order to avoid pleasure but to gain it. He has a short circuit in terms of pain and pleasure, but he is still seeking pleasure. In facing reality we need to ask ourselves, ―Who does not want to have experiences that are pleasant?‖ Who really wants to enjoy pain? I‘ll be the first to admit that I want comfort and I want to have a full stomach at the end of the day. I want to feel good; I don‘t want to feel bad! No one I know differs in that way. Hedonism has capitalized on a universal ―given‖ in human nature. All persons are creatures of sensation. We have feelings. We experience pain and we don‘t like it. We experience pleasure and we do like it. What the hedonist does is to affix the suffix ism which transforms pleasure into a philosophy of ultimates. Pleasure becomes the ultimate criterion of value, so that truth and goodness are determined by what produces pleasure. The Bible presents a very different view. Christ tells us from the beginning that a committed relationship with Him will involve pain. Christ was not a hedonist when He went up to Jerusalem. He had a duty to perform which was good and true, but which was also painful.


The hedonists would declare Christ a fool forever. In their eyes, He voluntarily accepted unnecessary pain. The Optimum of Pleasure Is in God‘s Kingdom To put things in balance, we must say that Christianity does not call us to seek suffering, or to pursue pain, or to flee from that which is pleasant. There is no sin in enjoying the pleasant and being free from pain, but there are times when the Christian must choose the road that results in pain. Because of this, we do not consider hedonism as the highest good. We believe that the ultimate food will bring us the maximum pleasure and the minimum of pain. From a Christian perspective, the location of maximum pain is in the pit of hell and the optimum abode of pleasure is in the kingdom of God. Pleasure is defined differently by the Christian than by the hedonist. Hedonism tends to see pleasure strictly on the level of sensual feeling, and it is restricted to physically quantifiable dimensions. Try an exercise for the next week. Count the number of times you see or hear the word feel or feelings. Then consider how the word feeling functions in our culture. The term is so pervasive in our society that traditional forms of language have changed to accommodate it (e.g., ―I feel Descartes was wrong‖). The interest of the general public in the relatively new science of psychology has grown at an explosive rate. We are a nation preoccupied with analyzing our moods and our feelings. One obvious manifestation of this preoccupation with feelings is seen in the explosion of drug use. Mind-altering drugs are used to induce euphoria. The cocaine and marijuana industries in this nation, as well as that of alcohol, are multibillion-dollar-a-year businesses. Indeed, today there are literally millions of alcoholics in the United States. Clearly, the quest for euphoria, for free-floating escape from pain has a heavy price tag. ―If It Feels Good, Is It Good?‖


Hedonism makes a value judgment by saying that the avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure are good. At the same time, it produces a system of ethics which, in turn, produces a certain behavioral pattern of morality. A popular maxim of our culture is ―If it feels good, it is good.‖ Goodness is determined by feeling. Popular music communicates the message that the final test of what is right is the feeling test. The sexual revolution is rooted in a hedonistic ethic. A recent quote from author Helen Gurley Brown indicates how much our society has been influenced by hedonism. She has given us a new definition of promiscuity. In the fifties the word promiscuity meant ―having sexual relationships with more than one person, outside of marriage.‖ The new definition by Helen Gurley Brown is ―Having sexual relations with more than one person in the same day.‖ Catch that phrase, ―in the same day.‖ That is the new definition of promiscuity. We must understand that the sexual revolution our nation has experienced has not happened in a vacuum. There are cultural and philosophical reasons for these changes. At the root, hedonism is philosophy of despair. It reflects a deepseated sense of hopelessness of people trapped on this side of the wall. It is a quasi-logical conclusion to secularism. If my life is bound by the poles of birth and death, if my life has no eternal significance, then why not grab whatever pleasure I can squeeze out of my brief time on earth? If death is ultimate and life is meaningless, we need an escape. Temporary euphoria seems better than none at all. The cocaine high, the sexual orgasm, the gourmet meal all offer at least a brief respite from constant despair. The final creed of the hedonist is ―Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.‖ The ancient Epicurean and the modern hedonist both search for the same thing—peace of mind. Peace of mind, however, is elusive. The deepest desire of man is for a stable peace, a peace that lasts without giving way to a hangover.


Saint Augustine was a crass hedonist before his conversion to Christianity. He pursued the sensuous route; he was a pleasure seeker. His famous prayer, penned after his conversion, expressed the human dilemma: ―O God, thou hast created us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.‖ Augustine saw a link between human restlessness, a gnawing form of anxiety, and living against the purpose of our creation. We were created for God. Just as fish are in despair out of water, so the human soul is in despair when it is outside of fellowship with God. The Westminster Catechism asks: ―What is man‘s chief end?‖ The answer provided is: ―Man‘s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.‖ The goal of man is God. He is the fountain of peace, the wellspring of joy. We were created for happiness, not gloom. We were created for hope, not despair. Americans are guaranteed the ―inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.‖ There is a profound difference, however, between pursuing happiness and seeking pleasure. We often confuse them. Sin destroys happiness. By sinning we violate God. We injure our relationship with Him. We frustrate the goal of our own humanity. But sin is pleasurable. If sin offered no pleasure it would have little attraction for us. We can state it this way: All happiness is pleasurable, but not all pleasure yields happiness. Pleasure and happiness are closely linked. But happiness is a particular type of pleasure. It endures. It goes beyond momentary euphoria to blessedness. It yields the authentic fruit of joy, a joy that lasts forever.


Chapter 3 Our achievements of today are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday. You are today where the thoughts of yesterday have brought you and you will be tomorrow where the thoughts of today take you. --Blaise Pascal Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. --William James Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter. --Friedrich Nietzsche I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. --Woody Allen As men are not able to fight against death, misery, ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy, not to think of them at all. --Blaise Pascal God does not play dice with the universe. --Albert Einstein For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die! So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. --Ecclesiastes 2:16-17 Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world. --Blaise Pascal


Things Still Worth Thinking About God We no longer live in an age where the existence of God is taken for granted. In former times people debated such questions as ―What is God like?‖ or ―How many gods are there?‖ That there was a god or gods was tacitly assumed by almost everyone. Times have changed. Our age has been called the age of skepticism. Belief in God is no longer considered necessary or, in some cases, even desirable. Christian thinkers do not dominate the world of philosophy as they once did. Christian art is no longer the focal point of cultural expressions. Since the eighteenth-century period of the Enlightenment and the advent of the age of science, there has been a growing sentiment that clinging to a belief in God is an option for those who cannot face living in a universe where things happen by impersonal natural laws. We have no firsthand evidence that can be scientifically measured about some being that lives ―out there.‖ The Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, commented after orbiting the earth, ―I didn‘t see any God out there.‖ God has not been discovered in a test tube or a telescope. Thus we are left with nonempirical means such as religious experience and emotional feelings to foster a belief in God. The prevailing mood is that science yields no evidence to support belief in God and in fact has presented evidence that makes belief in a god somewhat tenuous. This climate of opinion that science has made God unnecessary or even untenable has left many people with a sense of agnosticism about the question. The most popular form of agnosticism found in our society is that which is nonmilitant. That is, people say, ―We just don‘t have any compelling evidence to affirm the existence of God. There is not enough real knowledge to go on about a question like this.‖ Is the agnostic correct? Has science progressed to the point of being able to explain life and the universe adequately without reference to God? Does belief in God rest on emotion alone? As a theist I would like to deal with these questions. I would like to offer some evidence


for the existence of God that deals with the issue in the most basic form. Can you prove God exists? Whatever else the Christian affirms about God, he affirms that God is the Creator of the world. God is said to exist of Himself and is eternal. Is such a notion of God reasonable? Is there any evidence to support such a view? Let us begin our inquiry at the most basic point. Let‘s start by assuming that something exists. This is merely a starting point for our inquiry. Some may object at the outset that we cannot prove that any thing exists. Maybe all of reality is an illusion. Even the illusion is an illusion. Maybe there is no one having the illusion. For such people this argument will have no weight. But that‘s all right because such people don‘t exist if nothing exists. My argument is addressed to people who do exist, and I will leave the objections to our initial assumption to the philosophers who affirm my starting point in order to deny it. Where does our assumption lead us? I would like to show if something exists now, something has always existed. Ah, there‘s the rub! It‘s one thing to affirm that something exists now, but that‘s a long way from asserting that something has always existed. Well, let‘s see how we get there. If something exists now, we must affirm one of three things about it. It is either eternal, created by something that is eternal, or self-created. Can you think of any other alternatives? Which of these has been most frequently offered as an alternative by those who will not affirm the existence of God? The obvious answer is the third alternative. If we answer by either the first or the second, we have already affirmed that something is eternal (either an eternal world or an eternal creator). Only the third alternative gets us off the selfexistent eternal hook. Let‘s take a closer look at. What about creation by chance?


During the period of the Enlightenment some of the French skeptics maintained that the God-hypothesis was no longer necessary because ―now we know that the universe came into being by ‗spontaneous generation.‘‖ Spontaneous generation was a concept popular in the early days of the scientific revolution before advances were made in the scientific method of experimentation and observation. The sudden appearance of bacteria on bread or of tadpoles in a mud puddle was explained by spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation means that something comes from nothing, and it is another way of saying self-creation. More careful scientists with better controlled experiments showed these theories to be wrong. Careful microscopic study revealed the sources of the bacteria and the tadpoles. In a short time the notion of spontaneous generation fell into disrepute and was scoffed at by scientists. More recent versions of self-creation are expressed in more sophisticated terms. Now people speak of the origin of the universe in terms of quantum motion and combinations of space, time and chance. In a popular sense this means ―creation by chance.‖ In spite of the new language that is used, these ideas remain expressions of the notion of self-creation. What is wrong with the notion of self-creation? What would have to happen for something to create itself? Obviously, for something to create itself, it would have to exist in order to create. It would have to exist before it existed if it were to create its own existence. Are you getting a headache? For something to create itself it would have to be and not be at the same time and have the same relationship. To do that it would have to violate the law basic to all science, the law of contradiction (or law of non-contradiction). To say that something exists and does not exist at the same time and in the same way is to make a nonsense statement. The notion of selfcreation is irrational in the extreme. But what about creation by chance? To understand the problems with this idea we need a clear understanding of what chance is. Webster defines chance as ―something that happens as the result of


unknown or unconsidered forces.‖ Chance describes a mathematical relationship of factors. To illustrate this, let‘s consider the matter of flipping a coin. We say that the chances of its coming up heads or tails are 50 percent. (That is, if we can keep it from sticking in the dirt and standing on edge.) Suppose the coin is flipped and comes up heads. What made it come up heads? Did chance do it? Of course not. Chance merely tells us the possibilities in light of a multitude of variables. We don‘t usually control all the elements that are involved in the flipping of a coin. When someone flips a coin we usually don‘t know whether it started with the head up, how much pressure was exerted by the thumb, how dense the atmosphere was into which it was flipped, or how many revolutions the coin made in the air. If we knew all of those factors with certainty we would welcome the opportunity to wage on the outcome at 2-1 odds. What is the point of the analogy? Simply that chance has no power to cause anything. It has no power because it is nothing (that is, it is no thing or has no being). Chance is a mathematical abstraction with no real existence. Since it is nothing it cannot do anything. To say that the world was created by chance is to say that it was created by nothing or was ―self-created.‖ Call it spontaneous generation or call it chance, but a rose by any other name is still a rose. Some scholars have used the expression ―creation by chance‖ in a more accurate way. That is, they have followed Webster‘s definition and said, ―We do not know how the universe came into being. Chances are it was this or chances are it was that. We just don‘t know.‖ But that is not to say that the world came by chance in the sense that chance was the causal power. What are the chances that the universe was created by the power of chance? Not a chance. If chance-creation means self-creation and is therefore illogical, does that mean it couldn‘t happen? Must reality be logical? Doesn‘t the quantum theory and the so-called ―Heisenberg Indeterminacy Principle‖ indicate that this is precisely what happens? We are faced with a language problem that involves a subtle but serious misuse of words.


Because the motion of atomic particles under certain experimental conditions appears unpredictable or ―random,‖ their behavior has been called indeterminate. What does that mean? Indeterminate is defined as ―not determinate; indefinite; not distinct or precise; vague.‖ To be indeterminate is not to be nondeterminate. Indeterminacy simply means that we don‘t know why the particles behave the way they do. That is not the same thing as saying that their motion is caused by nothing or by chance. To say that the motion is caused by nothing is to make a nonscientific and irrational statement. To abandon the notion of God in light of the option of selfcreation is intellectual suicide. It may be a popular idea socially but it cannot withstand even a rudimentary intellectual critique. If we cannot appeal to self-creation as an explanation for what exists, then we must admit that something is eternal. We are still left with two possibilities: A self-existent eternal being who creates the world, or else and eternal world. Why not an eternal world? Those who have rejected the God-hypothesis and have seen the futility of the notion of self-creation have argued for the notion of an eternal world. What About the Eternal World Option? One Christian philosopher once wrote, ―In the beginning matter created the heaven and the earth.‖ And he then asked, ―What is the matter with that?‖ He replied, ―The matter with that is matter.‖ What he was driving at was that all of the observable characteristics of matter indicate that it is a dependent stuff. It changes, undergoes growth and manifests contingency. These notions are incompatible with the notion of eternality. But the objection is raised immediately, ―Our knowledge of the material world is incomplete. Maybe there is a special part of the yet undiscovered material universe that is eternal and is the source or wellspring from which everything else comes.‖ Perhaps that is a possibility. But then we would have to distinguish that part of the universe which is eternal and self-existent from the rest of the universe which would be its created creature. At least part of


the universe would be transcendent to the other part, at least with respect to the character of its being. Yet this transcendence of being is precisely what we are pleading for with our notion of God. What about a universe in process that involves the old idea of ―an infinite series of finite causes‖? Passing over the obvious difficulty with this idea, the first cause in this infinite chain, let us examine it more closely. Suppose there were some first cause in the series that was not self-existent (an irrational idea itself). What would happen if that being generated another similar being and then the first being died? If the first being passed out of existence then it obviously would not be eternal. But the universe would continue in the second being which now causes the third being and itself passes out of existence. How does this process come about? Does the first being pass on some seminal part of its own being to the second one, and so on? If so, then the first being still has a continuing element that transcends the second being. If the process is not by some stable part of the original being, then perhaps it was accomplished by fiat. (Now that first being is beginning to show even more similarities to God). Don‘t forget that we still have the massive problem of accounting for the first being referred to. Some have maintained that it is not necessary to account for the first being because we are talking about an infinite series and, by definition, an infinite series has no first in the series. The concept of an infinite series of abstract numbers is one thing, but a series of real beings is something else. We still must talk of a first ―being.‖ Others have maintained that the infinite series idea is defensible on the grounds that, in some cases, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. The illustration may be seen in Rembrandt‘s famous painting. The Night Watch. The Night Watch is a magnificent painting composed of individual brush strokes and pigment on a canvas. The total, however, is a work of art. We could take those same strokes, pigments, and pieces of canvas and rearrange them into a hideous and grotesque form. Hence the whole is ―greater‖ than its parts. Again we have a word problem here. The word ―greater‖ undergoes a subtle shift in meaning. Could we add up all the pigment, strokes, and canvas


and come up with a live elephant? Certainly not. If we have 50 pounds of paint in the painting, can the fact that the paint is arranged in a beautiful way make the paint weigh 55 pounds? Thus, the concept of a real infinite series of finite causes is a meaningless concept. What Is the Logic in a Self-Existent God Concept? If self-creation is an absurd idea, why isn‘t self-existence equally absurd? If we examine these two concepts by the cannons of logical, formal analysis, we can see they are quite different. As we have pointed out, the concept of self-creation involves a clear contradiction. To create itself something would have to be and not be in the same time and in the same relationship. On the other hand, for something to exist eternally in and of itself involves no contradiction. The notion of self-creation cannot pass the test of logic. The notion of self-existence violates no rule of logic and is not falsified by reason. But doesn‘t Christianity teach that God created the world ―out of nothing‖? If God can create the world out of nothing, why can‘t the universe create itself out of nothing? Isn‘t there a basic axiom which says ex nihilo nihil fit- ―out of nothing, nothing comes‖? There is a crucial difference between God‘s creating something out of nothing and something creating itself out of nothing. To be sure, in both cases there is no material cause for the world. But with God we have an efficient cause; with self-creation there is no efficient cause. How God creates is baffling and mysterious. But the idea of an eternal Being creating out of his own Power with no material to use violates no rule of logic. The law of causality. Doesn‘t the law of cause and effect apply to God as well as to the world? If everything must have a cause then who caused God? Aren‘t we being arbitrary by stopping our questions of cause when we get to God? The confusion here rests with the statement ―everything must have a cause.‖ That is an incorrect phrasing of the laws of causality. The law of cause and effect states that for every effect there is a cause. (An ―effect‖ by definition is something that requires a cause.) God


does not have a cause because He is eternal and self-existent. Being eternal, He is not an effect. Since He is not an effect, He does not require a cause. He is uncaused. It is important to note the difference between an uncaused, self-existent eternal being and an effect that causes itself through self-creation! An impersonal force or a personal God? Even if we grant that there must be something eternal and self-existent which is not the world as we know it, why can‘t it be some mysterious, impersonal force or, again, the infinite series? From whence comes the life out of this impersonal force? This is a particularly complicated problem because of the difficulty we have in defining life. If life is something special that can be distinguished from matter, then we must face the question of its origin. Can that which is not life produce life? This question deserves the same treatment as the original question of accounting for the ―something‖ that is. If life is an effect, we must account for its cause. If matter is utterly lifeless, how can it produce life? Even if it were conceivable for inanimate matter to produce life, could it produce intelligence if it were not intelligent itself? Intelligent life is life that has the ability to think and to act in a purposeful way. Can nature do that without intelligence? Can we have purpose by accident? Can we have intention unintentionally? If we say there is no purpose to the eye except that which accidentally developed (to provide sight) why should we call sight purposeful? If there is no purpose for the purpose, then the purpose is not really a purpose. What we are getting at here is that the whole realm of nature shouts of the design of the universe. This design must have a designer or it is improper to call it design. Even Immanuel Kant in his vast critique of the traditional arguments for the existence of God was awed by the obvious presence of design in nature. Without the assumption of design in nature there can be no science. Even the evolutionist who wants to replace God with grand scale evolution must assume some sort of design to explain his theory of evolution.


If we discover that our self-existent eternal something is intelligent, then we know that he is also in some sense personal. He may be superpersonal, but he cannot be impersonal. The argument from meaning. Since rational argumentation for the existence of God has gone out of style, many believers have turned their attention to construct ―existential‖ arguments. These arguments have a greater element of raw emotion and subjective concern within them but are, nevertheless, valuable. The arguments run as follows: ―If I am a result of a cosmic accident and my destiny is to be annihilated, how can I possibly have any significance in the meantime? If my origin is nothing and my destiny is nothing, how can my life be anything more than something that is, in Shakespeare‘s words, ―full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.‖ My life would be a ―tale told by an idiot.‖ Here is where the emotional element enters. Every fiber of our being screams to us that we are significant and that our lives have meaning. Is there any more universal human aspiration that the aspiration to significance? Less emotionally-oriented people might respond to this by saying, ―Of course we would like to have significance and meaning, but let‘s face it, we can‘t say we have significance just because we want it.‖ Here the critique of the nihilist is loud and clear. The nihilist says there is no meaning and life is ultimately an exercise in absurdity. From a theoretical viewpoint the nihilist has a strong argument against anyone who rests his case for the existence of God on the grounds of human aspirations to significance. The nihilist must be answered by other arguments, such as those mentioned earlier. The value of the argument from meaning is its ability to expose the real issues and stakes of the God question. The argument from meaning exposes the ―eat your cake and have it too‖ philosophies that fall between full-bodied theism and radical nihilism. It exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of naturalistic humanism. Naturalistic humanism maintains that man came from nothing and is going to nothing but meanwhile is full of significance. Virtues such as honesty and industry are exalted; human values such


as liberation, civil rights, and health care are extolled. But from a theoretical perspective we must ask, ―Why bother with human rights if man is ultimately insignificant? Who cares if black cosmic accidents have fewer rights than white cosmic accidents?‖ Such philosophy is rooted in sentiment and sentiment alone. The sentiment is great, to be sure, but we are still faced with the question of the nihilist, ―If there is no God, why should man be thought important?‖ It is not by accident that since the Enlightenment‘s rejection of God, the dominant theme of philosophy has been the question of the significance of man. We live in a time of genuine crisis about our own human identity. If we again open the question of the evidence of the existence of God, perhaps we may even discover that our aspirations to significance are not in vain. Though many welcomed the ―liberation‖ from the God-hypothesis that came with the skepticism of the Enlightenment, later thinkers have become less enthusiastic about the results of the liberation. Without the specter of God hanging over our heads, nineteenth-century man looked forward to the freedom of creating his own destiny. The marvelous advances of science and technology gave a ground basis for optimism. The optimism soon turned into pessimism when man began to contemplate the fuller implications of a godless universe. Without God man has no reference point to define himself. Twentieth-century philosophy manifests the chaos of man seeking to understand himself as a creature with dignity while having no reference point for that dignity.

Morality and Justice Romans 1: God‟s Moral Law Is Plain to All Let‘s return to the Book of Romans. In Romans 1, Paul charges that, because God‘s eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in the things he has made, all people are without excuse when it comes to acknowledging the Creator God. Then, starting at verse 28, Paul goes on to the subject of morality:


Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. While this list is not exhaustive, it does catalog some of the main ways humans violate each other through immoral behavior. Sin, unbridled, carries with it a hatred for absolute moral values. The crux of the matter comes, however, in verse 32: Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Who are ―they‖ that ―know God‘s decree‖? They are the very people who practice the sins previously listed. It is as if Paul is saying, ―Given that God has clearly revealed himself (including his holy character) in the things he has made, we humans know of God‘s righteousness and what that demands of our behavior.‖ In other words, every one of us knows the difference between right and wrong. We know how we ought to act, Paul argues (vv. 28, 32), because the absolute, infinite, and almighty God is holy. People know they ought not do each of the sins Paul names. Regardless of having this sense of oughtness, however, we not only chase after such sins and approve of them in others; we actually enlist the support of other people and encourage them to participate in the same devious acts. This is the essence of sin: direct rebellion in the face of the living God. Having refused to acknowledge God‘s goodness to us (Rom. 1:21, 28), we ignore what we ought to do and focus exclusively on what we want to do. Further on in Romans, Paul‘s indictment against humanity becomes clearly inescapable. In 2:12, 14, he writes, 104

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. . . For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. The law in this text, quite obviously stands in judgment on the individual. In fact, it stands in judgment upon those to whom it was not even given (i.e., the Gentiles). Not only did God give his chosen people the Law (this included the entire Old Testament), he actually has written his law upon the hearts of every human being. The perfect ethic revealed in the law of God delivered to Moses and the Prophets after him, is the same perfect ethic revealed in the law God gives internally to all people. Therefore, a defense based on ignorance of the law revealed to the Israelites is entirely irrelevant. One crucial point Paul makes is that the measure of revelation given to a person is not the issue; rather, the response on the part of that person is the issue (whatever the degree of revelation) and will be what God takes into account on the final day. All people, then, both Jew and Gentile, stand judged by the holy law of God, which law he has revealed both in the outward things created by him and in the inward things written on the hearts of every human. No one can escape the moral law of a righteous God. Non-Christians often assert that our consciences are simply a result of societal taboos or cultural conventions. Yet even though we may debate what belongs to custom and what belongs to absolute law, we cannot eradicate the conscience. No culture is devoid of an ethical structure, because if it were, it would cease to be a viable culture. Social interaction would be all but impossible in a society that has no ability to determine right from wrong. As much as na誰ve utopianism desires it, if man had no God, and subsequently no morality from which he could borrow, the last thing there would be is peace. Our relativistic culture today attempts to get around the need for a moral law by declaring that there is no right or wrong at all, that every act is amoral (neither moral nor immoral). This is nothing more


than an educated barbarism; and despite its efforts to the contrary, the conscience cannot be eradicated. Kant‟s “Categorical Imperative” Immanuel Kant‘s moral argument comes in precisely at this point. In the Critique of Practical Reason, he argues that every single person in the world has a sense of ―oughtness‖, an inherent sense of right and wrong. This sense Kant calls the ―categorical imperative‖. It cannot be ignored, and it drives every person to behave in a certain manner. It is ―categorical‖ because it is universal: everybody has a category of understanding regarding morality. It is ―imperative‖ because this moral category impels the person to act upon it; it represents an absolute command. This is by no means moral relativism. Kant contends that, since all people desire to be happy, the only way to that happiness is through the moral life (i.e., the categorical imperative). All people share an objective sense of duty which obligates them to act accordingly. Whenever we try to erase it, deny it, or flee from it, only guilt follows, while the categorical imperative still remains. Guilt is the one thing that always redirects the conversation between the apologist and his or her listener. Guilt is the one thing that most people seem to have and yet it is the one thing that most people have not yet resolved. Ignoring this categorical imperative will not make it go way; in fact, it only produces more feeling of guilt. Kant argues that such feelings of guilt come from failing to do our duty, from failing to follow the categorical imperative, or those things we are morally obligated to do. While the nihilists would later argue that that sense of ―oughtness‖ is just a glitch in the human composition, and that it is meaningless and must therefore be shrugged off, Kant sought to find out what would be necessary for true ethics – an ethic that imposes obligations – to be meaningful. Practically speaking, Kant understood that without some objective standard of behavior, civilizations would falter and fall. The law of the land would be simply ―might makes right.‖ And all people would be reduced to nameless, faceless stepping


stones for the one with the largest gun. To a certain degree, such is the precarious position we find ourselves in today. If there were no God, then there would be no ultimate ground for doing what is right. All things would be permissible, because all choices would reduce to a battle over preferences. Every person would do what is right in his or her own mind, which would create conflict and warfare between classes, races, and individuals. Without rules that rest on solid foundations, our own individual ―rights‖ would take precedence over everyone else‘s. Kant: Morality Makes No Sense Without God Kant was acutely aware that the stability of society was at stake, so he attempted to answer the transcendental question, ―What would it take for objective moral standards to be meaningful?‖ with a series of solutions. The first thing that is necessary for ethics to be meaningful, said Kant, is justice. If crime ultimately pays, then there is no practical reason to be virtuous. Practically, we have no reason to be anything but selfish. For moral standards to be meaningful, right behavior most be rewarded and wrong behavior must be punished. But after this has been established, what would be necessary for justice to take place? Since justice obviously is not dispensed perfectly in this life, Kant said, it must be doled out perfectly in a state beyond this life. Because in this life ―innocent‖ people perish at the hands of the wicked, there must be life after death, or a place where the wicked will get their just deserts. Consider the saint long ago who puzzled over the same question: ―O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?‖ (Ps. 94:3; cf. Pss. 37; 73). The wicked can exult only in a place where justice is not perfectly carried out. There is no absolute justice in this world. Nonetheless we seek justice, and we have courts to dispense justice, even though justice is not always served. There must be, then, according to Kant, perfect justice somewhere, and that somewhere is in the life hereafter. Kant saw the possibility, however, that even if there is life after death, we may still carry with us the same faults as before, and so


perfect justice would remain elusive. Another thing required for perfect justice to be dispensed after this life is a morally perfect judge. If this judge suffered any moral weakness, then ultimately that judge would not be righteous. He could make the same mistakes we make here on earth in our courtrooms. Thus far, we see in Kant‘s argument that in order to have ethical standards, there must be perfect justice; and in order to have perfect justice, a perfect judge must exist – one who is above reproach and beyond corruption. But what must this judge have in order to be morally perfect and make perfect judgments? The answer Kant offered was ―omniscience.‖ Suppose the morally perfect judge did the best job possible according to his character, but unfortunately he was limited in his knowledge so that he was liable to make mistakes. Only an allknowing judge could know all the facts or extenuating circumstances in the cases that come before his bench. This perfect judge cannot be subject to the ―accidents‖ that result from ignorance. The judge must know all of the facts, so that the judgment rendered is without error or blemish. But would the presence of a morally perfect and omniscient judge ensure perfect justice? Not yet. The judgment passed might fail to be carried out – unless that judge has the perfect power or ability to carry out every judgment that proceeds from his mouth. Omnipotence, then, is the final factor needed in this judge. He must be perfectly able to enforce his judgments in order to guarantee that perfect justice would take place. So this judge, finally, must be omnipotent, stronger than any counter-force that could possibly hinder his judgments from being carried out. To summarize, in order for ethical standards to have any absolute meaning (thereby imposing obligations upon us), justice must exist; and, granted that our justice is imperfect on earth, there must be perfect justice in the hereafter; and that perfect justice must be secured by a morally perfect, omniscient, and omnipotent judge. Kant is arguing transcendentally. Rather than giving us empirical evidence that moral absolutes exist, he has given us what is necessary in order for there to be moral absolutes. If our sense of ―oughtness‖ is going to matter, then that means that our lives matter. If this much is


true, then it follows that life will continue after death, because these moral absolutes were given by an absolute being – which being will hold us accountable for every single act ever done or left undone in this life. This judge is in no way comparable to our earthly judges, for this one knows all and is all-powerful; and what is more, he is entirely holy and utterly committed to righteousness. He cannot be bribed, nor can he be persuaded to overlook any guilt. Morality, Kant argued, if taken truly and seriously, makes the affirmation of God a practical necessity. We must live as if there is indeed a God, because if there is not, then we have no hope for civilization and for the human community. In short, Kant argues for the Christian God on the basis that he must exist for ethics to be meaningful. Kant says that even if we cannot know that God exists, for practical purposes we must live ―as if‖ he exists for ethics and society to be possible. He anticipates Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s maxim, ―If there is no God, all things are permissible.‖ Without an absolute ethical norm, morality is reduced to mere preference and the world is a jungle where might makes right.

Suffering It was Blaise Pascal who, in the midst of his consideration of the nature of man and his concern to pinpoint his uniqueness as precisely as he could, described man as a great paradox. He said that the paradox is located in the fact that of all the creatures in this world, man is at the same time that creature of the highest grandeur and of the worst misery. He said that the focus of man‘s grandeur is in his capacity to reflect analytically on his own existence in a way that transcends anything we find in the animal kingdom. And yet, that very point of grandeur is at the same time man‘s point of misery. For, as Pascal says, ―He has the ability to contemplate a better existence than he presently enjoys.‖ At the point of contemplating a better existence than he presently enjoys, Pascal touches on the very nerve of the question of the reality of human suffering. For the striking thing is that we have the capacity at least to think about life without suffering.


The last chapters of the New Testament, from the Revelation of Jesus Christ, are a record of the vision that John had of the inner gates of heaven and of the New Jerusalem coming down as a bride adorned from the throne of grace. They contain a matchless description of what it will be like on the other side, where there will be no sorrow or death or pain or suffering. They tell us that God Himself will come to each of His people and personally wipe the tears away from his or her eyes forever. It is a great vision, a marvelous vision! But the tears are still with us today. And until the moment comes when our eyes are lifted up to heaven and we see the New Jerusalem coming down as a bride adorned for her husband, we will have to deal with this problem. There are multiple answers to the question of suffering proffered over the years of the history of Western civilization. Indeed, every philosophical theory has to deal with it in some way. I would like to look briefly at four different approaches to the question of suffering outside Christianity and then come back and look at these same approaches through the eyes of the Christian faith. The four approaches are those I call the Docetic, the Stoic, the hedonist, and the existential. Let me describe each of them. The Docetic approach: suffering isn‟t real. The Docetic approach is that found initially, as the term suggests, in the historical movement know as Docetism. It was a variety of Gnosticism which, following certain platonic tendencies, denied the full reality of the human nature of Jesus. It saw the physical world as being less than perfect and less than real. It consequently concluded that suffering belonged only to the lower order of reality. I give the term Docetism to any theory that fails to take suffering seriously. The modern ―docetist‖ treats suffering as an illusion. Practitioners of Christian Science, for example, deal with suffering in this way. Here the way to overcome suffering is the way of ―mind over matter.‖ Pain belongs to the physical realm which is not real. By this approach suffering is not healed, but denied. The Stoic approach: philosophical imperturbability.


Here we think of the classic school of Stoicism as that period in history when Greek philosophy had degenerated from the lofty quests of earlier schools of metaphysics (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) to more earthly preoccupations. At this point it was dealing with questions like, ―How does a person live a successful life?‖ Stoics as well as Epicureans were concerned primarily with ―How can I live my life in this world so as to achieve peace of mind?‖ Both schools sought the peace of mind that goes hand and hand with having problems. But although the Stoics and the Epicureans had the same goal, they had radically different methods for how to achieve that goal. The Stoic method was simple. Stoics came to the conclusion that everything that takes place in the physical world happens on the basis of mechanistically determined physical causes over which we have no control. That is there is nothing you or I can ever do, think, say or achieve that will change the course of human events. So they said, ―Since conscience, human actions, and human events are strictly determined by impersonal forces of nature and since there is nothing we can do about what happens, the only thing left to us is to control our response to what happens. It is that alone that can set me free.‖ They said, ―All of the forces of nature cannot compel me to react against my will.‖ Thus the Stoics limited freedom to ―my personal attitudes.‖ And, they said, ―The way to overcome suffering is by philosophical imperturbability.‖ That is, they attempted to condition their emotions to such a degree that nothing could disturb them. They tried to remain calm no matter what happened. This view has survived to our own day, when we speak of people who maintain a ―stoic‖ attitude toward problems. The Hedonistic approach: pain and pleasure. The Hedonistic approach also has its roots in antiquity. It is associated with the Epicureans, for although it antedates them, the Epicureans nevertheless refined the earlier and grosser forms of


hedonism by seeking to establish an equilibrium between pleasure and pain. Their basic principle was that when we experience pain we are to balance the suffering by pleasure. Thus, if one is suffering too much, the answer to the suffering is to go out an increase the amount of pleasure. This approach to the problem of suffering is escapist. It seeks to intoxicate one‘s self from the full force of the suffering by overwhelming the suffering with other feelings. The Existential approach: life is absurd. I am thinking of existentialism here in terms of the most radical variety of atheistic existentialism which maintains that there are no ultimate values and no ultimate meaning to human existence. I think of Nietzsche as one representative of this viewpoint. Nietzsche believed that life is ultimately meaningless. Nevertheless, since we are still faced with the daily question of how to live in a world of suffering, Nietzsche advocated the principle of ―dialectic courage.‖ Dialectic courage is the courage that exists in the context of the tension of meaninglessness and of absurdity. It is telling people, ―Be of good cheer, for life is absurd.‖ That is dialectical. The heroic man is the man who dares to build his house on the slopes of a volcano knowing that sooner or later the volcano is going to erupt and take that house crashing down. That is our existential hero. He grits his teeth and faces the problem without letting it defeat him, knowing all the while that even the teethgritting will not solve it. Albert Camus looks at the problem of suffering and says that the only ultimate philosophical question is the question of suicide. Thus, like Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, the existentialist looks at the problems and raises the question: To be, or not to be; that is the question; Whether ‗tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them. That is the question the existentialist faces every day of his life.


These are some of the approaches to the problems of suffering that are offered to modern man. But how do they differ from the biblical approach to suffering? What does the Bible say about suffering? With respect to Docetism, the Christian says categorically and unequivocally, ―We refuse to look at suffering as illusion.‖ At the heart of the biblical revelation is a very earnest assertion of the stark reality of suffering in this world. There is no attempt to hide it or gloss it over. The Bible simply does not attempt to deal with the problem of suffering by euphemism. Wise Christians avoid the quick fix to our deepest struggles. We know our best life now may not be found in the removal of pain and suffering, but rather in finding stability, peace, and contentment in the midst of the storms around us. Daily grounding in the Word of God anchors our faith and equips us to glorify God and serve others in all that we say, think, and do. We all have a tendency to use euphemisms when we have difficult or harsh information to communicate. Just like the doctor who tells you that ―this may cause a bit of discomfort‖ when what they really mean is ―this is going to hurt,‖ preachers euphemistically tell people that they had better be careful or they are going to face eternal separation from God. By contrast, the Bible acknowledges the stark reality of hell and speaks of it clearly. Novelist Herman Melville recognized reality in his own struggles with his Christian heritage and with his family. In Redburn he said, ―Until we understand that one grief outweighs a thousand joys, we will never understand what Christianity is all about.‖ At that point he sounds like the Old Testament writer who says, ―It is better to go to the house of mourning than to spend your time with fools‖ (see Eccl. 7:2). Notice that our Savior was ―a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief‖ (Isa. 53:3). He was the suffering servant of Israel. There is no attempt to hide this, no attempt to gloss it over. Nor, by contrast is there any attempt to glorify it or wallow in it. Rather, suffering is


simply recognized as a part of the experience of every human being. We are creatures of suffering. Our way is the Via Dolorosa, the road of sorrow or grief. Unfortunately, the Docetic approach to suffering has infiltrated parts of the Christian church. There are those, even in evangelical circles, who think that there is something wrong about acknowledging the reality of suffering in this world and who act in all piety as if it did not exist. What about the Stoic approach? Christians are not called to be Stoics. As the people of God, we do not seek imperturbability. The Stoic mentality has, nevertheless, influenced the Christian community, and so many times people have confused Christianity and Stoicism as if it were a Christian duty never to experience grief or never to allow oneself to feel the passionate suffering. ―Keeping a stiff upper lip‖ is for Stoics, not Christians. Rather than this, Jesus comes to the tomb of Lazarus and weeps. In the Old Testament, saints of God rend their garments and wail. In fact, the lament is an inspired literary form of Scripture. There is no sin in grief. There is a difference between grief and bitterness, sorrow and hostility. So while we are not to be bitter, we are nevertheless allowed to experience grief. There is a time to cry, as well as a time to dance (see Eccl. 3:1-9). There is a time to experience pain and cry out to God in the midst of that pain. The Bible is filled with the records of the heroes of the people of God whose pillows are wet from their tears. Jesus made the statement: ―Blessed are those who mourn‖ (Matt. 5:4). There may be a sense in the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus is talking about mourning for our sin, but that is not all He is talking about. Jesus is talking about the basic experience of mourning. What about the hedonistic approach? Should we drown our sorrows by heaping up pleasures? We can find intrusions of this theme here and there in Christian circles. Martin Luther wrote on one occasion that when he became depressed he sometimes found that the


best solution (though he put in parenthesis, ―I do not recommend this to other people‖) was to go out and have a drinking bout. Well, that is Luther! Luther can handle it. But I am glad he wrote the parenthesis, because it is bad advice to tell the people of God to seek a solution to suffering through intoxication. In the final analysis, every hedonist has to face the hedonistic paradox that the more pleasure he experiences, the more frustrated he becomes and the more aware he is of the reality of his suffering. Sin and suffering. What about the existential approach? Perhaps it is this one, more than any other, which makes us eager to respond as Christian people and gives us a forum from which to speak about the reality of God‘s sovereignty. Our answer to the existentialist must start with his nihilism. As Christians we can never see suffering as meaningless. We see an undeniable relationship between the reality of suffering and the reality of sin, but at this point we must proceed very cautiously. We note that there is no suffering before the fall. We note also that in the new heaven and earth, where there is no sin, there is also no suffering. Suffering is linked to sin. At the same time, we must never establish a simple one-to-one equation between a person‘s suffering and his sin. This is part of the lesson of the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John. When Jesus healed the blind man the disciples asked Jesus, ―Why was this man born blind? Was it for his sin or the sin of his father?‖ Jesus said, ―Both of your alternatives are wrong. It was not for this man‘s sin nor for the sin of his father that he was born blind, but that God might be glorified.‖ Notice that Jesus does not concede that the man‘s blindness is a direct result of retributive justice. Nor does He say, ―It just happened.‖ Rather, there was a reason for it, but that reason was not part of an equation involving his sin. It is the same with Job. When Job suffered as he did, his friends came to him and said, ―Job, you have a lot of repenting to do. Anybody suffering this much must be really wicked.‖ But they missed the whole point. On the other hand, we dare not jump to conclusions in the other direction and say that there is never a relationship between human


suffering and the corrective wrath of God. Anytime I suffer I should ask: What does God have in mind? He may not have anything in mind that I will ever know about in this world. But He might, because we know that the Scriptures teach us that God does chastise those whom He loves and that part of the chastening process is the experience of pain and suffering. I may not come to the conclusion that my particular pain at a particular moment is for a particular sin. But I should certainly allow the occasion of my suffering to be at the same time an occasion for an evaluation of my relationship to God. The wrong question. We see this matter of sin and suffering handled in a particularly astonishing way when another question was put to Jesus. On this occasion some people had come to Jesus and said, ―What about those 18 people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell over on them and crushed them? And what about the Galileans who were killed at the very moment of making their offerings?‖ (See Luke 13:1-5). These 18 people were presumably walking down the street, minding their own business. They were not heckling the construction workers. They were not blaspheming. They were just walking down the street, and the tower fell on their heads and they were crushed. How did Jesus answer? Did He say, ―I know that the Old Testament says, ‗He who keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps,‘ but you have to understand that this is Hebrew poetry and that the Jewish people of the Old Testament are given to hyperbole. Remember that my Father gets tired. We read in the opening chapters of Genesis that He created heaven and earth in six days and finally took a rest. I suppose that on this particular afternoon He was just taking a nap and the tower accidentally fell over on the heads of these people. I promise I‘ll communicate with my Father. I‘ll ask Him to be more efficient in the future.‖ Is that what Jesus said? No, that is not what He said! Nor did Jesus say, ―I know I said that the hairs of your head are all numbered and that my Father knows every sparrow that touches the earth. But I was just trying to make a point. Don‘t push it too far. Remember what a herculean task it is to count all the hairs on all the heads of all the people on earth. Do you know how many birds there


are in this world? Well, this particular afternoon I suppose there was probably something that diverted my Father‘s attention from that tower.‖ That is not what He said. What did He say? The words He gave were words that theologians put under the category of the hard sayings of Jesus. He said, ―Unless you repent you will all likewise perish‖ (Luke 13:5). What an answer! What is Jesus saying here? I think that what He is saying is that these people were asking the wrong question. The question they should have asked is not ―Why did God allow these innocent people to die by having a tower fall on their heads?‖ Rather, the question they should have asked is: ―Jesus, why didn‘t that tower fall on me?‖ We are puzzled and bewildered whenever we see suffering in this world because we have become accustomed to the mercy and the long-suffering of God. Amazing grace is no longer amazing to us. So our astonishment is in the wrong place. The real question is: Why has God not destroyed us all since we got out of our beds this morning? Why does He tolerate us as we continue our work of sin and destruction upon His planet? Real injustice. But you say, ―Wait a minute; there is still the problem of unrequited evil, of injustice in this world.‖ Yes! There is a very real sense in which you and I suffer unjustly in this world compared to other people. In the earlier part of the book of Revelation you have the saints of God behind the altar crying out for vindication. They had been abused. They had been slandered, persecuted. They had been slain by wicked people for righteousness‘ sake. We look and understand that there is such a thing as injustice. It is not an illusion. When you slander me, you have created an injustice and caused me to suffer unjustly with respect to our relationship. When I slander you I injure you without just cause. But there is a certain sense in which, although we may suffer unjustly at the hands of men, horizontally, we can never turn in the vertical direction to look into the face of the Creator and say, ―God, it isn‘t fair!‖ We cannot do that because, although the horizontal relationship may be one of injustice, the vertical relationship is never one of injustice. Thus, you can pray about whatever you want to pray about; but don‘t ever ask for justice from God, because you might get it.


What I am saying is that the suffering of the Christian or anyone else in this world is never ultimately an accident. All suffering is within the pale of divine sovereignty. All suffering comes within the broader context of the sovereignty of God. However, when you start asking about particular cases and particular applications, we cannot answer that question. Job wanted an answer. I think he pushed God a bit too hard when he screamed out for vindication. So when God answered Job out of the whirlwind, He said, ―Who is this who darkens counsel with words without knowledge? What is your name?‖ As if He did not know his name! He knew his name. He knew who it was. He knew that it was His servant Job upon whom He had heaped blessing upon blessing, prosperity upon prosperity. And then He said, ―Job, I‘ll answer your questions, after you answer mine. I‘m going to interrogate you just a little bit. Job, where were you when I established the foundations of heaven and earth? Where were you, Job? What was your address?‖ And Job is looking at Him, his lips quivering and he is trying to think of an answer, but he does not have time. God goes on to the next question. ―Job, can you send a bird south in the winter? Can you find the lion‘s prey? Can you bind the stars in the sky? Can you? Can you? Can you?‖ Job says, ―No,‖ chapter after chapter after chapter. And when God is finished, Job says, ―I am sorry I asked. I abhor myself. I repent in dust and ashes. I take my hand and I place it upon my mouth and speak no more‖ (see Job 34-42). I think this is telling us that, although we know with certainty that all suffering fits into the scheme of God‘s sovereignty, nevertheless, there are those things about suffering that God has not chosen to reveal. This is where trust is really put to the test in the Christian‘s life. There is nothing glamorous about pain, but we have the right to ask God why. There are two ways in which we can ask that question. We can ask it angrily or calmly. If God is pleased to show us the ultimate meaning of our suffering in this life when we ask calmly, then we are blessed. But if He is pleased to wait until after we die and


become glorified, when we will finally see fully, then we are also blessed. Because, in this latter case, God still communicates certain things to us about suffering that we can grasp now. Triumph in tragedy. God tells us that in this He stands against the existentialist. He says that suffering can be redeemed, that it is not the last word. That is why no true Calvinist would ever hide behind the doctrine of God‘s sovereignty in the face of social responsibility to be agents of alleviation of suffering in this world. We know that suffering can be redeemed and that we can be used of God to bring that redemption to bear. So we are to be concerned about the feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, visiting and caring for the orphan and the widow. Ultimately we know that suffering is fully redemptive in the hands of God. Suffering itself is used by God for our sanctification. Asking ―Why do we suffer?‖ is like asking the doctor, ―Why do we have to take that awful tasting medicine?‖ Who wants an operation? Who wants to have a knife cut through the skin of our body? Nobody! But the context of suffering is sin. And part of the process of our sanctification is the crucible of suffering. That is why Peter can say to us, ―Do not think it a strange thing when you are called upon to suffer.‖ Why should we be surprised that suffering exists in a world of sin when we see that suffering itself is used in the depths of the riches of the grace of God to bring about our very sanctification? Fire is hot, but it does refine; it produces precious gold. And the Christian faith is what Luther called a theologia crucis, a theology of the cross, of suffering and pain. The New Testament does not say to Christian people, ―You might suffer.‖ It says, ―You will suffer‖ (see John 15:20-27). Moreover, it not only says, ―You will suffer,‖ it says, ―You must suffer‖ (see Rom. 8:17). So every baptized person carries the sacramental sign of his or her participation in the humiliation of Christ. He carries the sign of his identification with the suffering servant of Israel. Yet, although our suffering is real and although our pain abides,


we know that this is the way (irony of ironies) that God in His magnificent sovereignty has chosen to save the world. We are called to courage in the midst of suffering. But our courage is not dialectical. Jesus does not come to us like some kind of existential Good Humor man who says, ―Put on a happy face and smile, smile, smile.‖ He says, ―Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world‖ (John 16:33). If we can accept that truth, then we can rejoice in tribulation even if we do not fully understand it. If it is not true, then we should sleep late tomorrow morning.

The Conscience The wisdom of our age says guilt feelings are nearly always erroneous or hurtful; therefore we should switch them off. But is that good advice? What, after all, is the conscience, this sense of guilt we all seem to feel? The conscience is generally seen by the modern world as a defect that robs people of their self-esteem. Far from being a defect or a disorder, however, your ability to sense your own guilt is a tremendous gift from God. He designed the conscience into the very framework of the human soul. It is the automatic warning system that cries out before you self-destruct. The conscience, Puritan Richard Sibbes wrote in the seventeenth century, is the soul reflecting upon itself. Conscience is at the heart of what distinguishes the human creature. People, unlike animals, can contemplate their own actions and make moral self-evaluations. That is the very function of conscience. The conscience has an innate ability to sense right and wrong. Everyone, even the most unspiritual heathen, has a conscience: When Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their consciences bearing witness,


and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them. (Romans 2:14-15, emphasis added). The conscience entreats you to do what you believe is right and restrains you from doing what you believe is wrong. But don't equate the conscience with the voice of God or the law of God. It is a human faculty that judges your actions and thoughts by the light of the highest standard you perceive. When you violate your conscience, it condemns you, triggering feelings of shame, anguish, regret, consternation, anxiety, disgrace, and even fear. Conversely, when you follow your conscience, it commends you, bringing joy, serenity, self-respect, wellbeing, and gladness. The word conscience is a combination of the Latin words scire ("to know") and con ("together"). The Greek word for "conscience" is found more than thirty times in the New Testament--suneidesis, which also literally means "co-knowledge." Conscience is knowledge together with oneself. That is to say, your conscience knows your inner motives and true thoughts. It is above reason and beyond intellect. You can rationalize, trying to justify yourself in your own mind, but a violated conscience will not be easily convinced. The Hebrew word for conscience is leb, usually translated "heart" in the Old Testament. The conscience is so much at the core of the human soul that the Hebrew mind did not draw a distinction between conscience and the rest of the inner person. Thus when Moses recorded that Pharaoh "hardened his heart" (Exodus 8:15), he was saying that Pharaoh had steeled his conscience against God's will. When Scripture speaks of a tender heart (cf. 2 Chronicles 34:27), it refers to a sensitive conscience. The "upright in heart" (Psalm 7:10) are those with pure consciences. And when David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10), he was seeking to have his life and his conscience cleansed. Multitudes today respond to their conscience by attempting to suppress it, overrule it, or silence it. They conclude that the real blame


for their wrong behavior lies in some childhood trauma, the way their parents raised them, societal pressures, or other causes beyond their control. Sometimes people convince themselves that their sin is a clinical problem, not a moral one--and therefore define their drunkenness, sexual perversion, immorality, or other vices as "diseases" or "conditions." To respond to the conscience with such self-excusing arguments is tantamount to telling the conscience, "Shut up!" It is possible virtually to nullify the conscience through repeated abuse. Paul spoke of people whose consciences were so convoluted that their "glory is in their shame" (Philippians 3:19; cf. Romans 1:32). Both the mind and the conscience can become so defiled that they cease making distinctions between what is pure and what is impure (cf. Titus 1:15). After so much violation, the conscience finally falls silent. Morally, those with defiled consciences are left flying blind. The annoying warning signals may be gone, but the danger certainly is not; in fact, the danger is greater than ever. Furthermore, even the most defiled conscience will not remain silent forever. When standing at the Judgment, every person's conscience will side with God, the righteous judge. The worst sinhardened evildoer will discover before the throne of God that he has a conscience that testifies against him. The conscience, however, is not infallible. Nor is it a source of revelation about right and wrong. Its role is not to teach you moral and ethical ideals, but to hold you accountable to the highest standards of right and wrong you know. Both tradition and truth inform the conscience, so the standards it holds you to are not necessarily biblical ones (1 Corinthians 8:6-9). The conscience can be needlessly condemning in areas where there is no biblical issue. In fact, it can try to hold you to the very thing the Lord is trying to release you from (Romans 14:14, 20-23)!


The conscience, to operate fully and in accord with true holiness, must be informed by the Word of God. So even when guilt feelings don't have a biblical basis, they are an important spiritual distress sign. If your conscience is misfiring--sending out signals from a weak conscience--that should spur you to seek the spiritual growth that would bring your conscience more in harmony with God's Word. Your conscience reacts to the convictions of your mind and therefore can be encouraged and sharpened in accordance with God's Word. The wise Christian wants to master biblical truth so that the conscience is completely informed and judges right because it is responding to God's Word. A regular diet of Scripture will strengthen a weak conscience or restrain an overactive one. Conversely, error, human wisdom, and wrong moral influences filling the mind will corrupt or cripple the conscience. In other words, the conscience functions like a skylight, not a light bulb. It lets light into the soul; it does not produce its own. Its effectiveness is determined by the amount of pure light you expose it to, and by how clean you keep it. Cover it or put it in total darkness and it ceases to function. That's why the apostle Paul spoke of the importance of a clear conscience (1 Timothy 3:9) and warned against anything that would defile or muddy the conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7; Titus 1:15). Or, to switch metaphors, your conscience is like the nerve endings in your fingertips. Its sensitivity to external stimuli can be damaged by the buildup of calluses or even wounded so badly as to be virtually impervious to any feeling. Paul also wrote of the dangers of a calloused conscience (1 Corinthians 8:10), a wounded conscience (v. 12), and a seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2). Psychopaths, serial killers, pathological liars, and other people who seem to lack any moral sense are extreme examples of people who have ruined or desensitized their consciences. Can such people really sin without remorse or scruples? If so, it is only because they have ravaged their own consciences through relentless immorality and lawlessness.


The conscience is an inextricable part of the human soul. Though it may be hardened, cauterized, or numbed into apparent dormancy, the conscience continues to store up evidence that will one day be used as a testimony to condemn the guilty soul. But for the Christian, the conscience is a tremendous asset of spiritual growth.

Sin ―The sinfulness of sin‖ sounds like a vacuous redundancy that adds no information to the subject under discussion. However, the necessity of speaking of the sinfulness of sin has been thrust upon us by a culture and even a church that has diminished the significance of sin itself. Sin is communicated in our day in terms of making mistakes or of making poor choices. When I take an examination or a spelling test, if I make a mistake, I miss a particular word. It is one thing to make a mistake. It is another to look at my neighbor‘s paper and copy his answers in order to make a good grade. In this case, my mistake has risen to the level of a moral transgression. Though sin may be involved in making mistakes as a result of slothfulness in preparation, nevertheless, the act of cheating takes the exercise to a more serious level. Calling sin ―making poor choices‖ is true, but it is also a euphemism that can discount the severity of the action. The decision to sin is indeed a poor one, but once again, it is more than a mistake. It is an act of moral transgression. Sin is cosmic treason. What I mean by that statement is that even the slightest sin that a creature commits against his Creator does violence to the Creator‘s holiness, His glory, and His righteousness. Every sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an act of rebellion against the sovereign God who reigns and rules over us and as such is an act of treason against the cosmic King. Cosmic treason is one way to characterize the notion of sin, but when we look at the ways in which the Scriptures describe sin, we see three that stand out in importance. First, sin is a debt; second, it is an expression of enmity; third, it is depicted as a crime. In the first instance, we who are sinners are described by Scripture as debtors who cannot pay their debts. In this sense, we are talking not about


financial indebtedness but a moral indebtedness. God has the sovereign right to impose obligations upon His creatures. When we fail to keep these obligations, we are debtors to our Lord. This debt represents a failure to keep a moral obligation. The second way in which sin is described biblically is as an expression of enmity. In this regard, sin is not restricted merely to an external action that transgresses a divine law. Rather, it represents an internal motive, a motive that is driven by an inherent hostility toward the God of the universe. It is rarely discussed in the church or in the world that the biblical description of human fallenness includes an indictment that we are by nature enemies of God. In our enmity toward Him, we do not want to have Him even in our thinking, and this attitude is one of hostility toward the very fact that God commands us to obey His will. It is because of this concept of enmity that the New Testament so often describes our redemption in terms of reconciliation. One of the necessary conditions for reconciliation is that there must be some previous enmity between at least two parties. This enmity is what is presupposed by the redeeming work of our Mediator, Jesus Christ, who overcomes this dimension of enmity. The third way in which the Bible speaks of sin is in terms of transgression of law. The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers the fourteenth question, ―What is sin?‖ by the response, ―Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God.‖ Here we see sin described both in terms of passive and active disobedience. We speak of sins of commission and sins of omission. When we fail to do what God requires, we see this lack of conformity to His will. But not only are we guilty of failing to do what God requires, we also actively do what God prohibits. Thus, sin is a transgression against the law of God. When people violate the laws of men in a serious way, we speak of their actions not merely as misdemeanors but, in the final analysis, as crimes. In the same regard, our actions of rebellion and transgression of the law of God are not seen by Him as mere misdemeanors; rather, they are felonious. They are criminal in their impact. If we take the reality of sin seriously in our lives, we see that


we commit crimes against a holy God and against His kingdom. Our crimes are not virtues; they are vices, and any transgression of a holy God is vicious by definition. It is not until we understand who God is that we gain any real understanding of the seriousness of our sin. Because we live in the midst of sinful people where the standards of human behavior are set by the patterns of the culture around us, we are not moved by the seriousness of our transgressions. We are indeed at ease in Zion. But when God‘s character is made clear to us and we are able to measure our actions not in relative terms with respect to other humans but in absolute terms with respect to God, His character, and His law, then we begin to be awakened to the egregious character of our rebellion. Not until we take God seriously will we ever take sin seriously. But if we acknowledge the righteous character of God, then we, like the saints of old, will cover our mouths with our hands and repent in dust and ashes before Him.


Chapter 4 He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool. --Albert Camus If there is no God, everything is permitted. --Fyodor Dostoevsky Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. --C.S. Lewis

An Introduction to Ethics In present word usage the term ethics is often used interchangeably with the word morals or morality. That the two have become virtual synonyms is a sign of the confusion that permeates the modern ethical scene. Historically, the two words had quite distinctive meanings. Ethics comes from the Greek ethos, which is derived from the root word meaning ―stall,‖ a place for horses. It conveyed the sense of a dwelling place, a place of stability and permanence. On the other hand, morality comes form the word mores, which describes the behavioral patterns of a given society. Ethics is a normative science, searching for the principal foundations that prescribe obligations or ―oughtness.‖ It is concerned primarily with the imperative and with the philosophical premises upon which imperatives are based. Morality is a descriptive science, concerned with ―isness‖ and the indicative. Morals describe what people do; ethics define what people ought to do. The difference between them is between the normal and the normative. ETHICS 1. normative 2. imperative 3. oughtness 4. absolute

MORALS 1. descriptive 2. indicative 3. isness 4. relative


When morality becomes synonymous with ethics, the normal becomes the normative and the imperative is swallowed by the status quo. This creates a kind of ―statistical morality.‖ In this schema the good is determined by the normal and the normal is determined by the statistical average. The ―norm‖ is discovered by an analysis of the normal, or by counting noses. Conformity to that norm then becomes the ethical obligation. It works like this: Step#1. We compile an analysis of statistical behavior patterns such as those integral to the Kinsey Report. If we discover that a majority of people are in fact participating in premarital sexual intercourse, then we declare such activity “normal.” Step#2. We move quickly from the normal to a description of what is authentically “human.” Humanness is defined by what human beings do. Hence, if the normal human being engages in premarital sexual intercourse, we conclude that such activity is normal and therefore “good.” Step#3. The third step is to declare patterns that deviate from the normal to be abnormal, inhuman, and inauthentic. In this schema chastity becomes a form of deviate sexual behavior and the stigma is placed on the virgin rather than the nonvirgin. Statistical morality operates on the following syllogism: Premise A—the normal is determined by statistics; Premise B—the normal is human and good; Conclusion—the abnormal is inhuman and bad. In this humanistic approach to ethics the highest good (summum bonum) is defined by that activity which is most authentically human. This method achieves great popularity when applied to some issues but breaks down when applied to others. If we do a statistical analysis of the experience of cheating among students or lying among the general public, we discover that a majority of students have at some time cheated and that everyone has at some time lied. If the canons of


statistical morality apply, the only verdict we can render is that cheating is an authentically human good and that lying is a bona fide virtue. So what ethical standard is being used by people who nevertheless think lying and cheating is generally wrong and, indeed, may even admit they were personally and specifically wrong when they themselves lied or cheated at sometime in the past? Obviously there must be a relationship between our ethical theories and our moral behavior. In a real sense our beliefs dictate our behavior. A theory underlies our every moral action. We may not be able to articulate that theory or even be immediately conscious of it, but nothing manifests our value systems more sharply than our actions. The Christian ethic is based on an antithesis between what is and what ought to be. We view the world as fallen; an analysis of fallen human behavior describes what is normal to the abnormal situation of human corruption. God called us out to the indicative by his imperative. Ours is a call to non-conformity—to a transforming ethic that shatters the status quo. It is commonplace to hear the lament that some Christians, notably conservatives, are so rigidly bound by moralistic guidelines that everything becomes for them a matter of ―black and white‖ with no room left for ―gray‖ areas. Those who persist in fleeing from the gray, seeking refuge in the sharply defined areas of white and black, suffer from the epitaph ―brittle‖ or ―dogmatic.‖ But he Christian must seek for righteousness and never be satisfied with living in the smog of perpetual grayness. He wants to know where the right way is located, where the path of righteousness lies. There is a right and there is a wrong. The difference between them is the concern of ethics. We seek a way to find the right, which is neither subjective nor arbitrary. We seek norms and principles that transcend prejudice or mere societal conventions. We seek an objective basis for our ethical standards. Ultimately we seek a knowledge of the character of God, whose holiness is to be reflected and mirrored in our patterns of behavior. With God there is a definite


and absolute black and white. From God‘s perspective, there is no gray area at all. However, the problem for fallen, imperfect humans is to discover which things belong where. So, if white represents virtue or righteousness; and black represents sin or unrighteousness on our Christian‘s imaginary ethical continuum, what does the ―gray‖ represent? The gray area may call attention to two different problems of Christian ethics. It may be used to refer to those activities the Bible describes as being adiaphorous. Adiaphorous matters refer to those things which in themselves are ethically neutral. Thus, in themselves, adiaphorous matters are not sin, but there are occasions when they might become sin. Ping-Pong playing, for example, is not sinful. But if a person becomes obsessed with Ping-Pong to the extent that it dominates his life, it becomes a sinful thing for that person. However, the second problem of the gray area is more important for us to grasp. Here the gray area represents confusion: it encompasses those matters where we are uncertain about what is right and wrong. Finding the black and the white areas is a noble concern— jumping to them simplistically and thoughtlessly, however, may simply reflect a sinful human tendency toward pride and arrogance. In classical terms, sin is described as righteousness run amok. Evil is seen as the negation, privation, or distortion of the good. Man was created to labor in a garden. In modern jargon the workplace is described as a jungle. What is the difference between a garden and a jungle? A jungle is merely a chaotic garden, a garden run wild. Man was created with an aspiration for significance, a virtue. Man can pervert that drive into a lust for power, a vice. These represent the two poles on the aforementioned continuum. At some point we cross over a line between virtue and vice. The closer we come to that line, the more difficult it is for us to perceive it clearly and more our minds encounter the foggy gray area.


Again, there is no gray area to God. God is not confused, we are. Indeed, the Bible clearly teaches that if we sin against one point of the law we sin against the whole law. Does that imply that there are no degrees of sin? It is true that God commands perfect obedience to the whole law, so that by a single transgression I stand exposed to His judgment. The lightest sin exposes me to the wrath of God and in the smallest peccadillo I am guilty of cosmic treason. In the least transgression I set myself above the authority of God, doing insult to his majesty, his holiness, and his sovereign right to govern me. Sin is a revolutionary act in which the sinner seeks to depose God from his throne. Sin is a presumption of supreme arrogance in that the creature vaunts his own wisdom above that of the Creator, challenges divine omnipotence with human impotence, and seeks to usurp the rightful authority of the cosmic Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus did not, for example, teach that lust was as bad as adultery, or that slander was a bad as murder (Matt. 5:19-25). Jesus was correcting the simplistic view of the law held by the Pharisees. They had embraced an ―everything but‖ philosophy of technical morality, assuming that if they avoided the most obvious dimension of the Commandments, they had fulfilled the law. Like the rich young ruler they had a simplistic and external understanding of the Decalogue. Because they had never actually murdered anyone, they thought they had kept the law perfectly. Jesus spelled out the wider implications or the complex of the law. ―You shall not kill‖ means more than refraining from homicide. It prohibits the entire complex that goes into murder. It implies its opposite virtue: ―You shall promote life.‖ A similar continuum moves from the virtue of chastity to the vice of adultery. In between are lesser virtues and lesser sins, but sins nonetheless. Slander doesn‘t kill the body or leave the wife a widow and the children orphans. It does destroy a man‘s good name, which robs him of a quality aspect of life. Slander murders the man ―in spirit.‖ Jesus‘ teaching is to reveal both the spirit and the letter of the law. The


Pharisees had become crass literalists, ignoring the spirit of the law and missing the wider concerns of the complex of the sin of murder. It is true that historic Protestantism has rejected the Roman Catholic schema of mortal and venial sin. The rejection, however, as more fully explained later in this book, was not based on a rejection of degrees of gradations of sin. Calvin, for example, argued that all sin is mortal in the sense that it rightly deserves death, but that no sin is mortal in the sense that it destroys justifying grace. Considerations other than the degrees of sin were in view in the Protestant rejection of the mortal and venial sin distinction. Historic Protestantism retained the distinction between ordinary sins and sins that are deemed gross and heinous. The most obvious reason for the Protestant retention of degrees of sin is that the Bible abounds with such gradations in both the Old and New Testaments. For example, the New Testament lists certain sins that demand the forfeiture of Christian fellowship for the impenitent continuance of them. At the same time, the New Testament advocates a kind of love that covers a multitude of sins. Warnings abound concerning a future judgment that will take into account both the number (quantity) and the severity (quality) of our sins. Jesus speaks of those who receive many stripes and those who will receive few; of the comparatively greater judgment that will befall Chorazim and Bethsaida as opposed to the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah; and the greater and lesser degree of rewards that will be distributed to the saints. The apostle Paul warns the Romans against heaping up wrath against the Day of Wrath. These and a host of other passages indicate that God‘s judgment will be perfectly just, measuring the number, the severity, and the extenuating circumstances that attend all of our sins. Revealed Ethics At the heart of Christian ethics is the conviction that our firm basis for knowing the true, the good, and the right is divine revelation. Christianity is not a life system that operates on the basis of speculative reason or pragmatic expediency. We assert boldly that God


has revealed to us who he is, who we are, and how we are expected to relate to him. He has revealed for us that which is pleasing to him and commanded by him. Revelation provides a supernatural aid in understanding the good. This point is so basic and so obvious that it has often been overlooked and obscured as we search for answers to particular questions. The departure from divine revelation has brought our culture to chaos in the area of ethics. We have lost our basis of knowledge, our epistemological foundation, for discovering the good. This is not to suggest that God has given us a code book that is so detailed in its precepts that all ethical decisions become easy. That would be a vast oversimplification of the truth. God has not given us specific instructions for each and every possible ethical issue we face, but neither are we left to grope in the dark and to make our decisions on the basis of mere opinion. This is an important comfort to the Christian because when dealing with ethical questions we are never working in a vacuum. The ethical decisions that we make touch the lives of people and mold and shape human personality and character. It is precisely at this point that we need the assistance of the superiority of God‘s wisdom. To be guided by God‘s revelation is both comforting and risky. It is comforting because we can rest in the assurance that our ethical decisions proceed from the mind of one whose wisdom is transcendent. God‘s law not only reflects his righteous character but also manifests his infinite wisdom. His knowledge of our humanity and his grasp of our needs for fullness of growth and development far exceed the collective wisdom of all of the world‘s greatest thinkers. Psychiatrists will never understand the human psyche to the degree the Creator understands that which he has made. But taking comfort in divine revelation is also risky business. It is risky precisely because the presence of hostility in the human heart to the rule of God makes for conflict between divine precepts and human desires. To take an ethical stand on the foundation of divine revelation is to bring one‘s self into serious and at times radical conflict with the opinions of men.


Ethics involves the question of authority. The Christian lives under the sovereignty of God, who alone may claim sovereignty over us. Christian ethics is theocentric as opposed to secular or philosophical ethics, which tend to be anthropocentric. For the humanist, man is the norm, the ultimate standard of behavior. Christians, however, assert that God is the center of all things and that his character is the absolute standard by which questions of right and wrong are determined. The sovereignty of God deals not only with abstract principles but with real lines of authority. God has the right to issue commands, to impose obligations, and to bind the consciences of men. Christians live in the context of theonomy. Debates about law and ethics tend to focus on two basic options—autonomy and heteronomy. Autonomy declares that man is a law unto himself. The autonomous man creates his own value system, establishes his own norms, and is answerable and accountable to man and to man alone. Heteronomy means ―ruled by another.‖ In any system of heteronomy, the individual is considered to be morally responsible to obey limits and proscriptions imposed upon him by someone else. When we speak of theonomy, or the rule of God, we are distinguishing a specific kind of heteronomy. Theonomy is rule by another who is identified as God. This distinction between autonomy and theonomy is the most fundamental conflict of mankind. When theonomy surrenders to autonomy, the biblical description of that surrender is sin. It is the creature‘s declaration of independence from his Creator. There is an important difference between freedom and autonomy. Though autonomy is a kind of freedom, it carries the dimensions of freedom to the level of the absolute. Christianity asserts that man is given freedom by God, but that his freedom has limits. Our freedom never moves us to the point of autonomy. Indeed, some have viewed the Fall of man in Eden as a result of man‘s primordial grasp for autonomy—man‘s basal sin, the attempt to usurp the authority that belongs to God.


Friedrich Nietzsche, in trying to locate the most basic of human characteristics, located it in what he called man‘s lust or will to power. For Nietzsche the authentic man was the one who refused to submit to the herd morality of the masses—an existential hero who had the courage to create his own values. For man to create his own values absolutely, the first thing he must do is to declare the death of God. As long as God exists, he represents the ultimate threat to man‘s pretended autonomy. Jean-Paul Sartre also addressed this theme when he declared that unless freedom reaches the full measure of autonomy, it is not true freedom. Thus, Sartre stands with those who would dismiss God from the ethical arena. Our concept of liberty has changed drastically from eighteenthcentury America to twenty-first century America. The change has much to do with our understanding of autonomy. The quest for autonomy is considered by modern man to be a noble and virtuous declaration of human creativity. From the Christian vantage point, however, the quest for autonomy represents the essence of evil as it contains within its agenda the assassination of God. The contemporary existentialist cries that ―cowering in the shadow of the Almighty‖ is the worst thing man can do. Such human dependency upon divine assistance, he says, encourages weakness and inevitable decadence. To be sure, many people flee to Christianity because of moral weakness, but the fundamental issue is not what we regard to be preferable states of mind or psychological attitudes. The ultimate issue centers on the existence of God. It matters not whether I enjoy submitting to God. What matters first is the question, is there a God? Without God the only possible end of ethical reflection is chaos. Dostoyevsky captured this idea in The Brothers Karamazov, where he has one of characters say, ―If there is no God, all things are permissible.‖ The God of Christianity is sovereign, wise, righteous, and ultimately concerned with justice. Not only is God concerned with justice, but he assumes the role of Judge over us. It is axiomatic to Christianity that our actions will be judged. This theme is conspicuously absent in much Christian teaching today, yet if fills the


New Testament and touches virtually every sermon of Jesus of Nazareth. We will be called into account for every idle word we speak. On the final day it is not our consciences that will accuse or excuse us, but God himself.


Chapter 5 That God does not exist, I cannot deny. That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget. --Jean-Paul Sartre Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. --Blaise Pascal Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start a new religion. --L. Ron Hubbard

―I Don‘t Need Religion‖ ―Religion is a crutch for people who are not strong enough to cope with the pressures of life.‖ ―I don‘t feel the need for religion; my life is going smoothly.‖ ―Why can‘t you stand on your own two feet?‖ Statements like these are uttered frequently in our society. People reflect not so much an attitude of hostility to Christianity, but rather a sense of indifference to any personal relevance of Christianity to their lives. Along with indifference is an element of puzzlement about why Christianity places so much emphasis on ―grace‖ and religious activity. Often we hear people say, ―I don‘t see why I can‘t satisfy God by just living a good life, doing my duty as a responsible citizen, avoiding gross and criminal acts, and by being kind to my neighbor. Why do I have to be religious? Why should I act pious with expressions of repentance and prayer and all the right ‗religious‖ moves‖? These questions do not waste time with idle criticisms aimed at the periphery of Christianity, but they go to the core of what Christianity is all about. The essence of theology is grace, and without an understanding of it we cannot possible understand what Christianity is.


What‘s the Matter with Humanism? A major factor which causes difficulty in understanding the Christian emphasis on grace can be seen in the heavy influence generated on our culture by the philosophy of humanism. Humanism as an ―ism‖ manifests itself under several different varieties. All forms of it, however, place great stress on the value of mankind‘s virtues such as honesty, industry, justice, charity, and others. These virtues are extolled as prerequisites for the general welfare of mankind. The humanist will often be engaged in heroic acts of self-sacrifice to advance the cause of human dignity and freedom. At certain points it is easy to confuse Christianity with humanism because Christianity is also deeply concerned about values and virtue and the welfare of mankind. The basic point of difference, however, focuses on their respective evaluations of the moral ability of man. The humanist recognizes that man is not perfect. He knows that people are capable of committing all sorts of cruel and atrocious acts. Yet the humanist remains convinced that evil is something that is only a defect that mars man on the surface. The humanist has confidence that the heart of man is basically good. As long as a person achieves a certain standard of virtue, he need not be dependent upon religious means to excuse his failures to achieve these virtues. Self-discipline and effort are called for instead of a pious posture of prayer and fasting. ―God helps those who help themselves‖ is the motto of the humanist. But a constant problem faced by the humanist is the problem of the downward spiral of adjustments of moral expectation. If we cling to the idea that man is basically good, we must relativize the standard of goodness and reduce it to a low level in order to keep the myth alive. The standard of ―goodness‖ must be low enough that the average person can meet it consistently. It is precisely at this point that humanism is on a collision course with Christianity. Isn‘t ―Trying to Do the Right Thing‖ Enough?


The conflict between Christianity and humanism is a conflict of ultimate standards. Christianity evaluates the performance of mankind not by national averages or a low common denominator of human behavior. Goodness is not defined by statistical normalcy. Christianity asserts the normal man is fallen man. The standard of goodness is found in the holiness of God. Christianity takes seriously the divine mandate, ―Be holy, for I am holy‖ (Lev. 14:44; see also 1 Pet. 1:16). Man‘s role as the image-bearer of God carries with it an awesome moral responsibility that cannot be neutralized by a relative standard of goodness. The problem of relativized standards can be seen vividly in Jesus‘ encounter with the rich young ruler (see Luke 18:18 ff). The young man approaches Jesus with a spirit of enthusiasm asking, ―Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?‖ Note carefully the response of Jesus. He does not accept the flattery of the young man by saying, ―Thank you very much for acknowledging my goodness.‖ Rather, He gives a somewhat startling reply, ―Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone‖ (v. 19). The point of Jesus‘ reply is not to deny His own deity or His own sinlessness. (The young man surely was not aware of the full identity of Christ.) The point of Jesus‘ remarks is to challenge the assumptions about goodness the young man had. He says to the youth, ―You know the commandments: ‗Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.‘‖ The man quickly replied, ―All these have I observed from my youth‖ (v. 20-21). ―All these have I observed from my youth.‖ Think of that statement. Within the breast of the rich young ruler beat the heart of a thorough-going humanist. He actually believed that he had kept the moral law of God throughout his entire life. His unspoken thought was obviously, ―Oh, is that all I have to do? Well, I must be in pretty good shape to inherit eternal life.‖ It is probable that the young man was not present when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon Jesus elaborated the broader implications of the moral law of God. The young man probably didn‘t realize that if he had lusted after a woman, he had violated the broader dimensions of the prohibition


against adultery. He probably didn‘t realize that if he hated his brother, he had violated the broader application of the prohibition against murder. He had preserved himself from the more gross and crass violations of the law and therefore thought that his record was clean. In a word, he had adjusted the demands of the law downward. Jesus‘ response was somewhat subtle and indirect. He didn‘t argue with the man by saying, ―Oh no you didn‘t. You haven‘t kept these commandments since you got out of your bed this morning.‖ Instead Jesus said to him, ―One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor . . . and come, follow me‖ (v.22). Why did Christ change the whole conversation from goodness and law to money? I suspect the reason is obvious. Jesus started with the first commandment, ―Thou shall have no other gods before me,‖ and put the ruler to the test. He couldn‘t even pass the test on the first commandment for we read, ―But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich‖ (v.23). The issue of this encounter between Jesus and the rich man was not about money but goodness. The man wanted eternal life but he didn‘t want to be religious. He didn‘t want to depend on grace to gain that inheritance. Don‘t We have to Earn Our Way to Heaven? If we ask why it is necessary for grace to be central to the Christian life, the answer is very simple: Man is morally incapable of earning his way into the Kingdom of God. Man is not good enough to merit an eternal relationship with God. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that our noblest efforts at self-reformation or human virtue fall short of what God‘s holiness requires. The apostle Paul states it succinctly when he declares, ―No flesh shall be justified by the works of the law‖ (see Rom. 3:20). Not only does the New Testament make it clear that our feeble efforts at righteousness do not measure up to the demands of the law,


but it adds the radical notion that we are morally incapable of doing what God requires. This is a ―hard saying.‖ In essence, the Bible says that we are not able to do what we are required to do. ―The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God‘s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God‖ (Rom. 8:7). The New Testament describes us as being ―flesh‖ by nature. That condition of flesh involves such a moral weakness that we cannot do what God requires. But if we cannot, apart from grace, do what God requires, how can God possibly hold us responsible? How can He hold us accountable to a law we cannot keep? Keep in mind that the law requires perfection, yet none of us is perfect. How can God require perfection from imperfect creatures? To understand this dilemma even in the slightest we must come to an understanding of the meaning of ―cannot.‖ In what sense are we unable to fulfill the law of God? Theologians have wrestled with this ―cannot‖ problem for centuries. Jonathan Edwards provides one distinction that is helpful. He distinguished between what he called man‘s ―natural ability‖ and man‘s ―moral ability.‖ Natural ability means the necessary power or equipment to perform a task. For a being to do moral works he must have moral powers. He must have a will and a mind, for example. A creature without a will cannot make moral decisions. A creature without a mind cannot respond with understanding to moral concerns. Thus, for man to be able to be a moral creature, there is certain basic ―equipment‖ necessary. If God commanded us to fly, we would not be able to comply, not on moral grounds but on natural grounds. We lack the ability to fly, not because we are sinners, but because God has not provided us with wings. Birds have the natural ability to fly but human beings do not. Man can only fly by artificial and mechanical means. Edwards would say, therefore, that if God required man to fly, He would be unjust in making such a demand because man lacks the natural ability to do it.


Man does have the natural ability to be morally perfect inasmuch as he has the necessary natural equipment to perform moral acts. Yet, the Bible says there is a sense in which man cannot do what he is required to do. Edwards calls this a ―moral inability.‖ Man has a mind and a will; but in order to exercise that mind and will to obedience, what else would man need to have? He would have to have some kind of inner disposition or inclination toward God. In simpler terms, he would need to have a ―desire‖ to please God. Edwards maintains that when the New Testament says that man cannot keep the law of God, it is not because he lacks a will or a mind and cannot understand what God requires, but rather because man does not have a proper disposition toward God. Man, in his fallenness, is in a state of enmity and estrangement from God. The Scriptures tell us that the desires of man‘s heart are wicked continually. The Bible acknowledges that man has a will, but that will is ―under the power‖ of sin and in ―bondage to sin.‖ What Good is Having a Free Will? Edwards‘ distinction between natural and moral ability touches heavily on the classic issue of free will. Does Christianity teach that man has a free will? How can we be in bondage to sin and have a free will at the same time? These questions are inseparably related to the question of why we need grace. They touch the point of deepest conflict between Christianity and humanism. If by nature I am in bondage to sin and my will is morally unable to obey God, how can I still be held responsible? These questions have far-reaching implications that are well beyond the scope of this book, but some foundational matters of the will must be briefly discussed. Christian scholars from Augustine to Luther and Calvin to the present have consistently maintained that fallen man indeed has a free will, but their understanding of ―free will‖ is different from that of the humanist. Augustine, for example, argued that man has a free will, but he does not have liberty. Calvin argued that man has a free will but is in bondage to sin. At first glace these statements from theologians sound contradictory. What do they mean by these assertions?


To simplify the matter, what the theologians mean is that man is free insofar as he is able to choose what he wants to choose. To go a step further, they would maintain that not only can man choose what he wants to choose, but that he always does in fact choose what he wants to choose. To be free is to be able to choose what you want. This, in fact, is what we always do. Sometimes it seems like that is not the case. There are times when it seems we are forced to act against our desires. For example, if a thief were to come up to me and point a gun at me and say, ―Your money or your life,‖ I would experience what we call ―coercion.‖ In such a situation my freedom would be greatly curtailed and restricted but not altogether destroyed. The thief would reduce my options to two. All things being equal, I would probably not have a great desire to give the thief all of my money. But when my choices are reduced to two, and one of them is death, I do have a certain desire or inclination to hand over the money. Total coercion would occur if the thief stepped up to me, shot me dead, and helped himself to my money. Then my freedom would be as dead and inert as I would be. The whole matter of making choices is very complex. Most of the time our choices are not limited to two. We have a whole network of desire factors at work within us. Often they are in conflict; rarely are they at a consistent level of intensity. Some days I have an intense desire to serve Christ and obey God. At other times, I am listless in my faith and not very zealous to obey God. But one thing remains constant: I always make my choices according to the strongest inclination I have at the moment of decision. For example, if my desire to obey God were always greater than my desire to sin, I would never sin. When I sin, on the other hand, it is because I want to sin more than I want to obey God. Nobody forces me though many may entice and encourage me to sin. It is precisely because I sin according to my desires that God holds me responsible for my action. Two serious questions remain to be dealt with about the matter of freedom. In the first place, if it is true that I always act according to my strongest inclination and in fact I must choose according to my strongest inclinations, doesn‘t that involve a kind of determinism? If


my choices are controlled by my inclinations, can I be said to be really free? The answer to both of these questions is yes. Freedom does not involve a kind of determinism. But the determining factor in moral decisions is the self. This we call self-determination, which is the essence of freedom. Determinism as an ―ism‖ is that theory which reduces man to the utter control and manipulation of forces external to himself. Self-determination stands over against external determinism. The second question relative to the matter of choosing according to our strongest inclination is the question of why we have no positive inclination toward God. If we must have an inclination toward God before we can obey Him, and we lack such inclination, how can God hold us responsible? The biblical answer throws many for a loop. The Bible makes it clear that we are in fact held responsible for our very inability to obey God. We are judged guilty for our representative participation in the fall of Adam. We are born in a corrupt state and yet are held responsible for being in that corrupt state. Yet, we are fallen not because of what we have done but because of what Adam did for us. This poses the very thorny theological problem of what is called ―alien guilt.‖ It raises the further question of God‘s holding me responsible for what somebody else did long before I was born. How can a just God do that? Why Am I Blamed for Something I Didn‘t Do? These issues are very difficult to treat in such a brief fashion, but a cursory glance at the problem may yield some helpful guidelines to further reflection. I understand to some degree how the law can hold me accountable for acts done by someone else. If I enter into a conspiracy with a hired assassin to murder someone, I can be charged with first degree murder despite never having touched the gun that killed. I am held accountable for what my hired representative did for me. But who hired Adam? Not only was I not at the scene of the crime, I wasn‘t even born yet. I may have been represented by Adam, but I had nothing to say about the selection of my representative. I


want to vote for my own representative so that I may be fairly represented. Why do we want ―fair‖ representation? We want to have some assurance that our representatives accurately represent us. If someone else appoints my representative, I have no safeguard that the representative will act in my best interests. On the other hand, even if I do have the right to choose my own representative, I have no guarantee that he would act out my choice. Every time I choose a representative, my choice is a fallible one. Only once in all of history have I had an infallibly chosen representative. That was in Eden. To be sure, God made the choice for me; but I must face the question: Was God‘s infallible choice of my representative a more accurate or less accurate choice than I could or would have made myself?‖ If we say that God‘s choice was anything less than a perfect one, we slander His righteousness and only prove the accuracy of His selection. If I charge God with tyranny, assuming I would have done differently, I only manifest the corruption that Adam‘s fall brought me. Thus, I share with Adam in a corporate fall and a corporate guilt. My sinful disposition is my own fault, and I cannot blame it on Adam or on God. The Christian believes that man is fallen but remains free to act according to his disposition. Because the disposition is corrupt, man lacks the moral ability to obey God. Only by grace can such a fallen creature be restored and redeemed. Without that grace, efforts of moral perfection are doomed to failure. The humanist has a notion of freedom that differs sharply from the Christian view. Humanistic notions of freedom tend to view the heart of man as being in a state of moral neutrality. The popular notion is this: When confronted by a moral decision I have the power to do the good or not to do the good. There is no predisposition that controls my choice either to good or to evil. My choices are utterly spontaneous. According to the humanist, predisposition destroys freedom. According Christianity, the absence of predisposition would destroy freedom.


Suppose I were confronted by a choice but had absolutely no inclination to either the good or the bad; which would I choose? Why would I choose it? More importantly, how could I choose either? My choice would be an effect without a cause which is irrational. If there would be no reason for my choice, my choice would be utterly arbitrary and have no moral value. The humanist has s twofold problem. He cannot account for a ―spontaneous‖ choice in the first place, and even if such an irrational act actually happened, he cannot give any moral significance to it. Not only does reason militate against the humanist notion of freedom, but history gives him problems as well. If man is born in a state of moral neutrality, how can we account for the universality of human imperfection? Surely some percentage of persons would be able to make it through life without sinning. There would be no reason why anyone would ever sin, not to mention the majority or, worse yet, everybody. The most frequent response to this, which unfortunately reflects a somewhat shallow level of thinking, is that because society is corrupt and morally innocent people are raised in such a corrupt environment, eventually everyone gets tainted by sin. The superficiality of this line of reason may be seen by merely asking the question, ―How did society become corrupt in the first place? Why are there no morally perfect societies or even societies where half of the people are perfect? Diogenes‘ quest for the honest man continues to this day. If the Bible never mentioned original sin, we could easily postulate it from a study of history and human society. Why Do I Need Grace? Why is grace necessary? For liberation and reconciliation with God. Without grace I am left with my fallenness and must face the judgment of God on the basis of my own performance. The idea of a last judgment is not a popular one in our culture. The preaching of hell, fire, and damnation is no longer in vogue. There is a prevailing notion that all we have to do to enter the Kingdom of God is to die. God is viewed as being so ―loving‖ that He really doesn‘t


care too much if we don‘t keep His law. The law is there to guide us, but if we stumble and fall, our celestial grandfather will merely wink and say, ―Boys will be boys.‖ We expect God to look at us (or overlook us), wink and smile tolerantly saying, ―Oh well, nobody‘s perfect.‖ We face the problem of immunity to holiness by virtue of our camaraderie with sin. Since we are all imperfect, we consider that imperfection to be unimportant to both us and God. We expect that if God will hold us accountable for our lives that He will grade us on a curve. Our sins are many but they are not too serious, and God would certainly never punish us for them. These assumptions are both dangerous and ill-advised. One reason why we fail to see the urgency of the need of grace is because we operate with a totally different value system from that of God. Suppose we were called upon to establish 10 ultimate laws by which a nation should be governed. How many of us would include in the list an absolute command to honor parents? How many would include a law against coveting another person‘s property? How many would include a weighty prohibition against using the name of God in vain? Our priorities and values simply do not match those of God. To state the conflict of values another way, let us consider the most important moral duty there is. God tells us that the great commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. This commandment is awesome. Whom do you know that loves God with all of his heart? How about all of the mind? Do we have a consummate passion to know God and to study His Word with rigorous diligence? Whom do you know who loves every person in the world as much as he loves himself? I know I haven‘t loved God with my whole heart for 60 seconds in my life. Nobody keeps the great commandment. So what‘s the big deal? If no one abides by that particular law, it can‘t be that important, right? Yet God calls it the great commandment. What if he considers the breaking of that law as the great transgression? What if we are judged ultimately by that law? Would we need grace then?


Consider the implications of the great commandment. Is the law a good one? Suppose we all kept it perfectly. All jealousy, dishonesty, theft, and violence would disappear from the earth. No one would ever cheat, slander, or oppress his fellowman. God would be honored in all places. Justice and love would be universal. Failure to keep this law does not merely mean the loss of a utopian society; it means that we are guilty of nothing less than cosmic treason. Our slightest sins are acts of rebellion against the Creator of heaven and earth. At that point we defiantly refuse to submit to His authority or His rule. God takes that personally and He takes it very seriously. But we have a safety valve. We will not become unduly alarmed as we contemplate the law of God. We know that God is a God of love and wouldn‘t let any of us perish in the end. Now we are talking about grace. We have heard that God is gracious and thus there is nothing to worry about. I guess we do need grace, but I still don‘t have to be religious since God gives that grace to everyone. He must give that grace to everyone because He is a loving God. Loving gods don‘t allow anyone to perish. Does not love require that God give His grace to everyone equally in the end? This assumption is the most perilous assumption anyone could ever make about grace. Though God‘s grace is abundant and truly amazing, though His grace is freely given and is majestic in scope, it must never be taken for granted. Nothing requires that God be gracious not even His love. If grace is ever required, it is no longer grace. Grace cannot be required. If we merit it then it is no longer grace; if God is obliged to give it then it is no longer grace. When we think that God must be gracious, we confuse grace with justice. The most fearful mistake we could make would be to think in the deepest chambers of our hearts that somehow God ―owes‖ us His grace. When we begin to think like this, it is time to go back and examine the law. Once I rebel against God, He owes me nothing. I desperately need His grace and will surely perish without it, but I can never demand that He give it to me.


We do not need to be religious in the sense of wearing certain clothes or using certain religious clichĂŠs or by affixing a certain saccharin smile to our faces. But we do need to be religious in the sense of depending fully on God‘s grace and making diligent use of the means of grace He provides for us. Repentance and faith are not unnecessary options with God. His grace comes with demands. For one who has experienced the grace of forgiveness those demands become opportunities for a display of gratitude. Our response to grace is obedience. The motive for obedience is not to enter the Kingdom but to honor the King who has already granted us access into His Kingdom. The sum of theology is grace. The sum of ethics is gratitude.


Chapter 6 No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says; he is always convinced that it says what he means. --George Bernard Shaw Reality, in fact, is always something you couldn't have guessed. That's one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It's a religion you couldn't have guessed. --C. S. Lewis

―The Bible Contradicts Itself. It‘s Just A Fairy Tale.‖ Christians, to support their claim of revealed truth, appeal to a book that was written hundreds of years ago. This book—the Bible— has been a subject of an enormous amount of study and criticism which, for many, has left the integrity of its trustworthiness seriously in doubt. Of course, if the Bible were universally regarded as an authoritarian source book for truth, many of the questions and issues discussed in this book would simply evaporate. But the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible is presently in question. It is well beyond the scope of this chapter to give a comprehensive defense of the integrity of Scripture. Such a comprehensive defense would involve so many complex matters that it clearly deserves separate treatment. And there are many books that have done just that. Nonetheless, several common and persistent questions about the integrity of Scripture are dealt with briefly here. Is the Bible Full of Myths? That the Bible is a book of myths is a common charge leveled by its critics. Since myths have no counterpart in historical truth, they are considered to be worthless sources of truth. One dictionary definition of myth terms it as ―any fictitious story.‖ Why is it so often said that the Bible is fully of myths? A chief reason is because of the numerous accounts of miracles that are found 150

in its pages. Another reason is because of parallel accounts between such things as the biblical view of the flood and that found, for example, in Babylonian mythology. A third reason why the presence of myth is suspected is because there exist similarities between events surrounding Jesus and portraits of the gods found in Greek mythology. These three reasons serve as the substantial basis for attributing a mythological character to biblical literature. A question of miracle is not merely a question of literary style but it involves important questions of history and philosophy. If a miracle is rejected as a myth because the critic assumes that miracles cannot happen, then the issue becomes one of philosophy of nature and history rather than one of literary analysis. Before miracles can be rejected out of hand as ipso facto impossible, the critic must first establish that we are living in a closed mechanistic universe in which there exists no possibility of divine or supernatural intrusion. On the other hand, if there is a God who is omnipotent, then miracles are possible and accounts of them cannot be gratuitously dismissed as myths. If we allow that miracles are possible that does not mean that every claim to them is valid. It is one thing to say that miracles could have happened; it is quite another to say that they did happen. As we deal with the question of an alleged miracle we must deal with it not only on the grounds of the possibility, but on the evidence that is offered to support its claim. One of the interesting elements of biblical miracles involves the sobriety of their accounts. Compare, for example, miracle narratives of the New Testament with those found in the Gnostic literature of the second century. The Gnostic ―miracles‖ display a flavor and atmosphere of the bizarre and frivolous. New Testament miracles take place in a context of a sober view of history and redemption. Those who claim them are men of obvious profound ethical integrity and men who are willing to die for their veracity. When evaluating the claims of biblical miracles it is important to understand the total value system of those who are making the claims. The biblical writers, in the JudeoChristian tradition, write with a constraint that involves a profound


commitment to the sanctity of truth. Peter, for example, argues, ―We do not declare unto you cleverly devised myths or fables but rather what we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears‖ (see 2 Pet. 1:16). Because there are parallel accounts of ancient events found in the Bible as well as in ancient mythological literature, this is no justification for impugning the writers of Scripture on the basis of the fallacy of guilt by association. If we assume, for example, that there was a natural catastrophe such as a flood in the ancient world, it should not surprise us that the event is reflected in the writings of other people. The Christian welcomes a close study of comparison between the biblical account of the flood and that found, for example, in the Gilgamesh Epic. That the biblical account is already demythologized appears selfevident. The charge that the New Testament surrounds the person of Christ with mythology is often inferred from similarities of dying and rising gods in Greek mythology such as are found in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses. However, in a comparative examination of any object or event under analysis the scientific method demands that we note not only the similarities but the differences as well. Mythic creatures that are half man and half best, for example, are noticeably absent from the Scriptures. Bizarre stories about the creation of the universe are also conspicuously absent. The world, for example, is nowhere described in Scriptures as an appendage of a god; nor do we see notions of the world coming into being as a result of sexual acts of procreation among the gods. Though Jesus is virgin born, He does not spring anew out of the head of Zeus. At the heart of the difference between Greek mythology and biblical literature is a radically different view of the significance of history. For the Greek there is no overt attempt to ground myth within the framework of history. Indeed, for the gods to become actually incarnate in the realm of space and time is utterly repugnant to the Greek mind. On the other hand that which is non-historical or antihistorical is relegated to the level of falsehood by the Hebrew. This


radically opposing view of history is essential to understanding the Jewish-Greek antithesis with respect to the question of myth. Does the Bible Conflict with Science? Perhaps nothing has contributed more to the loss of credibility of Scripture than the conflicts between religion and science that have come out of the scientific and technological revolution. We remember the condemnation of Galileo and the circus atmosphere of the Scopes ―Monkey Trials.‖ Galileo was condemned for teaching that the sun was the center of our solar system (heliocentricity) over against the accepted view that the earth was the center (geocentricity). The bishops of the church in Galileo‘s day refused to look into his telescope and examine the empirical evidence that the earth is not the center of our solar system. The church is still feeling the embarrassment of that episode. Some argue that the Bible teaches a view of reality that is utterly in conflict with the assured results of modern scientific inquiry. Some allege that the Bible teaches a primitive, prescientific view of the universe which is no longer tenable to modern man. The Bible describes the universe as being ―three-storied‖ with heaven above, the earth in the middle, and hell underneath the earth. It describes a world of demons and angels which is considered in conflict with modern theories of physics and biology. How does the Christian respond to such allegations? In the first place, it must be acknowledged that the church indeed has made grievous errors in drawing scientific inferences from the Scriptures that were unwarranted. Nowhere does the Bible ―teach‖ that the earth is the center of the universe. The Scripture describes nature from a phenomenological perspective. That is, the world of nature is described as it appears to the naked eye. The sun is described as moving across the heavens. The Bible speaks of sunrises and sunsets. And in popular speech modern scientists still speak in the same manner. One needs only to observe the daily weather forecast to see this taking place. The weather report, or ―meteorological‖ survey, is couched in technical scientific jargon. We hear about high pressure systems, barometric


pressure, precipitation probability quotients, and the like. Yet at the end of the forecast we are told that the sun will rise at a given time and will set at another time. We do not phone the news station and angrily demand that such antiquated notions of geocentricity be deleted from the weather forecast. We do not charge the scientists with being unscientific when they describe things in phenomenological terms. We shouldn‘t do that to the biblical writers either. That the Bible speaks of a demonic world is evident. The Bible does not, however, teach that diseases and other mysterious maladies are caused by demonic activity. The Scriptures recognize and endorse the practice of medicine. I might add that the notion of the existence of a demonic world conflicts with no known natural scientific law. The Bible is not a textbook of science. It does not purport to instruct us in matters of calculus, physics, or chemistry. There are times, however, when serious conflicts do emerge between theories inferred from science and biblical teaching. If, for example, a scientist concludes that the origin of man is a cosmic accident, then the scientist holds a position that is antithetical to the teaching of Scripture. But the question of man‘s origin can never be determined by the study of biology. The question of origin is a question of history. The biologist can describe how things could have happened, but can never tell us how they did happen. Is the Bible Filled with Contradictions? People accept without hesitation that the Bible is full of contradictions. Yet the charge is completely inaccurate and misleading. Why, then, if the charge is so inaccurate, do we hear it so often repeated? Apart form the problem of prejudice, there are other reasons why this misconception is propagated. There is a problem not only of ignorance of what the Bible says, but perhaps even more so, a problem of ignorance of the laws of logic. The word ―contradiction‖ is used all too loosely with respect to biblical content. That there are divergences of biblical accounts, that biblical writers describe the same things from different perspectives, is not in dispute. Whether those varied accounts are, in fact, contradictory is in dispute.


It would be a serious overstatement to say that all discrepancies within the biblical text have been easily and satisfactorily resolved. There are serious discrepancies that have not yielded full and satisfactory resolutions. But these problems are few and far between. To say that the Bible is full of contradictions is a radical exaggeration and reflects a misunderstanding of the law of contradiction. For example, critics have alleged repeatedly that the Gospel writers contradict each other with respect to the number of angels present at the tomb of Jesus. One writer mentions one angel and the other writer mentions two angels. However, the writer who mentions one angel does not say there was only one angel. He merely speaks of one angel. Now if in fact there were two angels, it is mathematically certain that there was also one angel. There is no contradiction in that. Now, if one writer said there was only one angel and the other writer said there were two, at the same time and in the same relationship, there would be a bonafide contradiction. In other words, when prejudice is removed from the accusation, even the few alleged contradictions that remain disappear after applying the test of formal logic to each (e.g., using syllogisms, the laws of immediate inference, truth tables, Venn diagrams, etc. to test for logical inconsistency and contradiction). Not every biblical discrepancy has been resolved. But the direction of the evidence is very encouraging. As biblical scholarship increases and our knowledge of language, text, and context increases, the problem of discrepancy becomes smaller and smaller. There is less reason today to believe that the Bible is full of contradictions than at any time in the history of the church. Prejudice and critical philosophical theories, however, die a very slow and hard death. Is the Bible Inaccurate Historically? If any area of biblical scholarship has given us reason for optimism concerning the reliability of Scripture, it is the area of historical investigation. To be sure there are certain dimensions of biblical content that are difficult to either verify or falsify by means of


historical research. For example, the existence of angels can hardly be verified through archeological research. Unless we can dig up some petrified angel wings we must deal with these matters on other grounds. But where biblical material touches on areas where historical research is possible it has come out remarkably well. Twentieth-century discoveries such as those at Ugarit, Qumran and Ebla have done much to enhance our understanding of antiquity. The Nuzi tablets and the Armana tablets have resolved a host of Old Testament problems. The work of Ramsey tracing the journeys of Paul as recorded by Luke has so vindicated Luke‘s accuracy as a historian, that modern secular historians have called him the finest historian of antiquity. The biblical historians have fared considerably better under close scrutiny and critique than have other ancient historians such as Josephus and Herodotus. The Christian has nothing to fear from rigorous historical research. Rather, we have everything to gain. To illustrate the weight of modern historical research let us note just a few statements from some of the most eminent archeologists. Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archeologist, wrote: ―It may stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.‖ W.F. Albright, widely acknowledged as the dean of archeological scholarship in the twentieth century, states: ―The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source history.‖ Dr. Albright adds: ―As critical study of the Bible is more and more influenced by the rich new material from the ancient Near East we shall see a steady rise in respect for the historical significance of now neglected or despised passages and details in the Old and New Testament.‖


Millar Burrows of Yale observes: ―Archeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has shown in a number of instances that these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of historical development. This is a real contribution, and not to be minimized.‖ Dr. Burrows adds: ―On the whole, archeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record. More than one archeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine.‖ F.F. Bruce notes: ―Where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy and accuracy has been vindicated by some inscriptional evidence, it may be legitimate to say that archaeology has confirmed the New Testament record.‖ Why Is Some of the Bible Offensive? Apart from questions of mythology, contradiction, conflict with science, and historical inaccuracy, people have rejected the Bible because the content of it is considered offensive. In particular, biblical expressions of the wrath of God have been singled out for criticism. The Old Testament is criticized for portraying a God who is merciless and arbitrary in His Judgment. It is frequently stated, ―I have no problems with the loving God of the New Testament, it is the angry God of the Old Testament I reject.‖ In such reactions to the Old Testament, we find serious misunderstandings of the wrath of God. Nowhere do we find God involved in capricious or arbitrary acts of judgment. His wrath is never directed against the innocent. His anger never flows without a reason. It is always directed against human rebellion and sin. It is ironic that the two Testaments are so often placed in contrast to each other. The irony may be seen in light of the cross. It is the cross of the New Testament that reveals the most violent and mysterious outpouring of the wrath of God that we find anywhere in Scripture. Here, an innocent man does suffer but only after He willingly takes upon Himself, by imputation, the sins of the world. Without this


act of wrath there is no grace. But it is precisely through this act of wrath that grace is made available. The New Testament knows no disjunction between the God of Jesus and the God of Abraham. Jesus appeals to the God of the Old Testament fathers as the God He is serving and revealing. The Old Testament, in spite of its manifestations of the wrath of God, remains a history of God‘s grace and long-suffering with a rebellious people. There is wrath unparalleled in the New Testament and grace overwhelming in the Old Testament. A false dichotomy between the Testaments is foreign to the biblical writers themselves. When we examine the law code of Israel, however, do we not see a legal ethic that is in fact bloodthirsty? Does not the list of over 35 crimes which require capital punishment reflect a barbarian ethic? Are not the punitive measures of the Old Testament manifestations of what we would regard as cruel and unusual punishment? The law code of the Old Testament seems harsh to us in light of our present societal standards. But we live in an age where serious sin is not taken seriously. We live in an age where the holiness of God and the sanctity of human life have been sadly eclipsed. If we compare the law of the Old Testament with law of creation, we see not the cruelty of God but the mercy of God. In creation all sin against God is regarded as a capital offense. In the slightest act of rebellion we commit cosmic treason. Any sin against a perfectly holy and righteous God may justly culminate in death. Thus the Old Testament law represents a massive reduction of capital crimes which reveals not the bloodthirsty vengeance of an angry God but the long-suffering mercy of a holy and loving God. It is precisely at the point of offense in Scripture that we meet a special opportunity for supernatural instruction. By studying the parts of Scripture that are offensive to us we have the opportunity to discover those values and concepts we hold that are out of harmony with the wisdom of God. If we are offended by the Bible, perhaps the fault is not in God but in our own corrupt and distorted sense of values.


I wonder what would happen if we called a moratorium on our criticism of the Bible and allowed the Bible to criticize us? Are Scriptures Infallible? It is one thing to argue that the Bible is a basically reliable source of history and religious instruction; it is quite another thing to assert that the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible. It is one thing to maintain that the Bible has great value as a treasury of human insight into religious truth; it is quite another to maintain that it provides us with divine revelation and can justly be called the Word of God. Why do Christians go beyond asserting general reliability of the Bible to the conviction that the Bible is the infallible word of God? What follows is not an attempt to present an argument for the infallibility of Scripture, but rather an attempt to outline the procedure by which such a conclusion is reached. Again, it is beyond the scope of this work to provide a defense of biblical infallibility (see also, Chapter 12, ―Scripture Alone‖). Rather the aim is to explain and clarify the process by which the conclusion is reached. The case for the infallibility of Scripture proceeds along both deductive and inductive lines. It moves from the premise of general trustworthiness to the conclusion of infallibility. The reason proceeds as follows: Premise A–The Bible is a basically reliable and trustworthy document. Premise B—On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Premise C—Jesus Christ being the Son of God is an infallible authority. Premise D—Jesus Christ teaches that the Bible is more than generally trustworthy; it is the very Word of God. Premise E—The word, in that it comes from God, is utterly trustworthy


because God is utterly trustworthy. Conclusion—On the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus Christ, the church believes the Bible to be utterly trustworthy; i.e., infallible. Note that this progression does not involve circular reasoning. Circular reasoning occurs when the conclusion is already present in the first premise. Rather this method follows a linear pattern of development. The argument itself is not infallible as each premise involves matters of inductive or deductive reasoning that is done by fallible human beings. But there is not a subjective leap of faith found in the method. Rather the process involves careful historical, empirical investigation as well as logical inferences. That the Bible claims to be the Word of God is not enough to authenticate the claim. Any book can make such a claim (e.g., The Book of Mormon). But the fact that the claim is made is significant indeed. If the Bible is trustworthy then we must take seriously the claim that it is more than trustworthy. If we are persuaded that Christ is the sinless Son of God then we must take seriously His view of Scripture as being authoritative. It is from the impetus of Christ Himself that the church is led to confess her faith in the divine authority and infallibly of Holy Scripture. In 1973, a symposium of biblical scholars and theologians in Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania issued a statement on Scripture that focuses on the authority of Christ as the ground basis for biblical authority. This ―Ligonier Statement‖ states: We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God: We hold the Bible, as originally given through human agents of revelation, to be infallible and see this as a crucial article of faith with implications for the entire life and practice of all Christian people. With the great fathers of Christian history we declare our confidence in the total trustworthiness of Scriptures, urging that any view which


imputes to them a lesser degree of inerrancy than total, is in conflict with the Bible‘s self-testimony in general and with the teaching of Jesus Christ in particular. Out of obedience to the Lord of the Church we submit ourselves unreservedly to his authoritative view of Holy Writ.


Chapter 7 You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read, and your life is under scrutiny every day. What do others learn from you? Do they see an accurate picture of your God? --John MacArthur A man‟s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching. -- C.H. Spurgeon

The Influence of Christianity Christ Transformed His Disciples The disciples originally chosen by Jesus were plain, ordinary Jewish citizens. Several were fishermen, one came form the socially despised tax collectors, and the others similarly came from low-ranking occupations. They were typically flawed men with vastly different personalities and temperaments. The evening before his trial and crucifixion, when Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, his disciples, much to his disappointment, lacked the stamina to stay awake in order to support and comfort him. A few hours later one of them – the overconfident Peter – even denied knowing him. The next morning, as Jesus was crucified, all except John hid in fear. No one would have guessed at this time that these fear-stricken individuals and their associates would in a few years be accused of having ―turned the world upside down‖ (Acts 17:6) by their preaching and teaching the message that Christ had entrusted to them. What changed? What caused this remarkable transformation that did not occur during Jesus‘ earthly ministry?


The third day after Jesus had undergone the cruelest and most inhumane form of execution known to man, he physically rose from the dead. Soon after Christ had appeared to ten of his disciples (to whom he had shown his pierced hands and feet), they told the formerly absent Thomas that the risen Lord had appeared to them behind locked doors. Thomas, however, refused to believe them, saying he needed to see and touch Christ‘s wounded hands and side before he would believe such a preposterous report. Eight days later Jesus gave Thomas the requested evidence when he again entered the same locked room. This time Thomas was present, and Jesus asked him to touch his pierced hands and side. Upon confronting the empirical evidence of the risen Christ‘s body, Thomas exclaimed, ―My Lord and my God!‖ (John 20:28). Encountering the physically resurrected body of Christ transformed Thomas from a skeptic to a believer. Between the time of his resurrection on Easter and his ascension to heaven (a period of forty days), he made at least ten specific postresurrection appearances. Only twenty years or so after Christ‘s resurrection, Paul, the former infamous persecutor of Christians, defended the historical fact of Christ‘s physical resurrection by telling some of the skeptics in Corinth that the risen Christ had appeared to some five hundred people on one occasion (1Corinthians 15:6). Many of these individuals, said Paul, were still alive. Skeptics could ask them, if they didn‘t want to believe the eyewitness accounts by him and the disciples. The appearances of Christ‘s physically resurrected body not only transformed the disciples from fear and doubt, but it also enabled them to understand what Jesus had told them before his crucifixion. He said, for example, ―I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whosoever lives and believes in me will never die‖ (John 11:25-26), and also, ―everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day‖ (John 6:40). Now that they understood the full meaning of Christ‘s suffering, death and resurrection, they were not only transformed, but they were also motivated to proclaim that message in various parts of the world


without fear. Thus, not many years later, when threatened by the Roman authorities, Peter and John said fearlessly, ―We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard‖ (Acts 4:20). Another time Peter told his fellow Christians, ―We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty‖ (2 Peter 1:16). They knew Christ‘s physical resurrection was a historical fact, similar to all other facts in history. So convinced and motivated were they that, according to wellattested tradition, all except the Apostle John signed their testimony in blood by dying for what they preached and wrote. More specifically, church tradition records that Matthew was killed by a sword in Ethiopia; Mark died after being dragged by horses through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt; Luke was hanged in Greece; Peter was crucified upside down; James the Just (half brother of Jesus) was clubbed to death in Jerusalem; James the son of Zebedee was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I in Jerusalem; Bartholomew was beaten to death in Turkey; Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Greece; Thomas was reportedly stabbed to death in India; Jude was killed with arrows; Matthias, successor to Judas, was stoned and then beheaded; Barnabas was stoned to death; Paul was beheaded under Nero in Rome. Men do not die for stories they contrive. More People Transformed The power of Christ‘s gospel to transform individuals did not begin and end with his handpicked disciples. It also transformed countless others, and those individuals in various ways left their mark in history. The English word martyr comes from the Greek martyr, meaning a witness; a word that early in the church‘s life came to mean much more than witnessing. It soon referred to Christians who in times of persecution died as witnesses to the Christian faith. The word also became a verb as historians wrote about Christians being ―martyred.‖ Thus, every time we hear the word martyr today, it takes us back to the countless transformed followers of Christ who suffered some of the


most severe, barbaric persecutions known to humankind for their Christian beliefs. The first Christian martyr was Stephen, a deacon who preached to the Hellenistic Jews in one of Jerusalem‘s many synagogues. Many of Stephen‘s fellow Jews did not take kindly to his preaching of the Gospel, so they falsely accused him of blasphemy and took him outside the limits of Jerusalem, where they stoned him to death. Before he died, under an avalanche of stones, he fell down on his knees and cried out, ―Lord, do not hold this sin against them.‖ These words and his firm faith show that, like Jesus‘ original disciples, he had been transformed by the power of the resurrected Christ. Upon finishing these words, he ―fell asleep,‖ becoming in about A.D. 35, only a few short years after Christ‘s resurrection and ascension, the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:59-60). James, brother of Jesus, originally did not see Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Indeed, Jesus‘ family initially thought he was ―out of his mind‖ (Mark 3:2). But the resurrection of Christ changed James from a skeptic to a believer (see 1 Corinthians 15:7). After his conversion, James lived a pious and upright life, spurning the secular values of his pagan Roman contemporaries and earning the name of James the Just. James‘ piety and preaching led many of his fellow Jews to become Christians. This angered the Sadducees and Pharisees, so to stop his evangelizing, they asked him, the pillar of the church in Jerusalem, to deny his faith in Christ. Instead, he boldly and loudly confessed that Jesus was the Son of God. This provoked his opponents even more, so they stoned and clubbed him to death just outside the temple in Jerusalem. As he was physically assaulted with stones, he prayed, like Stephen, echoing the words of Christ on the cross: ―O Lord, God and Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.‖ The risen Christ had transformed him too. These and other early persecutions brought about consequences that were neither intended nor planned by the first Christians, individuals who believed in the literal resurrection of Jesus from the


dead. Indeed, persecutions diminished neither the number nor the spirit of Christ‘s followers. The more Christians were persecuted, the more they grew in number and the more they spread to various parts of the Roman Empire. Immediately following the stoning of Stephen, we read that ―those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went‖ (Acts 8:4). Transformed by his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul, zealous and ruthless persecutor of Christians, became ―Paul‖, the ―Apostle to the Gentiles‖, preaching the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. For this he suffered and endured much (see 1 Corinthians 1:10-15). Then in A.D. 67, as had happened often before, he was imprisoned; this time in Rome, where the mentally crazed Nero had him beheaded. While awaiting his execution, he wrote from prison to his spiritual son Timothy, assuring him that he had ―kept the faith‖ and that he was ready to depart to go to his Lord. But before he closed his letter to Timothy, he added the wish that God would not hold it against those who did him harm or who deserted him when he came face-toface with his persecutors (2 Timothy 4:16). Paul, once called Saul, had also been transformed. Following the examples of Stephen, James, and Paul, first hundreds and then thousands of Christians suffered severe persecution that led to their being imprisoned, tortured, and often executed during the church‘s first three centuries. These Christians refused to capitulate to Roman threats and demands to honor the pagan gods and to declare the emperor as Lord. These unflinching early believers undoubtedly remembered Christ‘s warning: ―All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved‖ (Matthew 10:22). Or surely they recalled Christ‘s other words: ―Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell‖ (Matthew 10:28). Indeed, as Christians experienced Nero‘s cruelties and the numerous persecutions that followed for another 300 years, the words of Jesus, ―I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you‖ (John 15:19 NKJ), proved remarkably true.


Christians were persecuted not only for not honoring the pagan gods and for refusing to call the emperor ―Lord‖ but also because they led morally upright lives, which was as offensive to the morally licentious Romans as was the religious exclusivity of the Christians. Christians practiced a morality that condemned the common Roman practices of abortion, infanticide, abandoning infants, suicide, promiscuous sex of all kinds, unthinkable and sadistic cruelty to slaves, patria postestas, and the degradation of women. Their moral posture was one of many reasons why they were harassed, hated, despised, and often imprisoned, tortured, or killed. The Romans made then into an army of martyrs. To most of the Roman emperors and much of the Roman populace, human life was cheap and expendable. Killing or harming people physically commonly failed to the stir the conscience. As such, killing Christians was hardly a cause for guilty feelings. For instance, one of Nero‘s methods was to cover Christians with pitch and set them on fire at night so they would serve as torches to illuminate his beloved circus games. Ironically, the more the Christians were persecuted, the more their numbers grew. Tertullian had it right when he said, ―The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.‖ A renowned church historian corroborates Tertullian‘s claim, saying, ―Many pagans became Christians only after seeing the death of the martyrs.‖ Obviously, the many desperate attempts to stamp out Christianity did not work. The persecuting emperors and their abettors—all of them pagans—failed to understand that they were persecuting a group of people who had been transformed by the man from Galilee, whom the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and his sycophants unwittingly made the model for all persecuted Christians to emulate. In pagan blindness, the persecutors refused to believe the Christians who, by their words and actions, made it very clear that in worshipping Jesus Christ they were not just honoring a man-made deity (like the Greeks and Romans), but joyously dying to self for someone who offered them eternal life, demonstrated through his own death and physical resurrection from the dead.


The frequent inhumane suffering endured by the persecuted Christians led the Romans to remark cynically, ―These imbeciles are persuaded that they are absolutely immortal and that they will live forever.‖ Similarly, the emperor Diocletian said, ―As a rule the Christians are only too happy to die.‖ They imitated the many martyred Christians who preceded them and whose faith was unlike anything any Roman had ever witnessed. Paganism contained no promise that said, ―He who believes in me will live, even though he dies‖ (John 11:25). Paganism had no transforming spiritual power. None of their gods had risen from the dead; instead, their gods possessed all of the frailties and weaknesses of human beings. In spite of the numerous persecutions, as Robin Lane Fox has noted, for virtually three centuries Christians were ―not known to have attacked their pagan enemies, they shed no innocent blood, except their own.‖ As transformed people, they, in the words of Jesus, turned the other cheek. They evidently also remembered Paul‘s words when he told the Christians that ―everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities‖ (Romans 13:1). One Christian editor recently wrote, ―You and I would not and could not hold faith in Christ today, if many of the early Christians had not marched into the arena or toiled in the mines, unbent and uncompromised. . . . Each time you and I meet a Christian, we are viewing a monument to the unknown early Christian martyrs.‖ The countless number of people transformed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the early years of Christianity was nothing short of incredible. The effects of those transformations were equally incredible. Christ‘s followers produced revolutionary changes— socially, politically, economically, and culturally. As George Sarton has said, ―The birth of Christianity changed forever the face of the Western world.‖ Christ‘s transformed followers, especially during the first few centuries, effected that change because Christ‘s life and teachings challenged almost everything for which the Roman world had stood. And what Christianity changed, says Christopher Dawes, marked ―the beginning of a new era in world history.‖ Without Christ‘s resurrection


―the entire history of the world since the coming of Christ would have to be fundamentally altered.‖ A British theologian recently said, ―The oddest thing about Christianity is that it got going at all.‖ Interestingly, there were ten or more messianic movements in Palestine that failed within about one hundred years before and after Christ. One was the movement of Judas the Galilean, who led a revolt around the time of Christ‘s birth. In A.D. 66-70, Menachem, a leader of the Sicari and seen as a messiah, was killed by a group of rival Jews. Following him, Eleazor assumed Menachem‘s leadership. He and his adherents, marooned on the Masada rock, committed suicide in A. D. 72 rather than let the Romans capture them. Then about one hundred years after Christ‘s crucifixion and resurrection, Simeon ben-Koshia (Bar Kokhba), also seen by many as a messiah, led a revolution. His movement ended with his execution. It was the end of another failed messianic group, but not so with the followers of Christ. Unlike the leaders of these and other religious movements, Jesus was no political figure; he had no connection with Herod or the Sanhedrin; he took no political action; his disciples were relatively uneducated. Yet he changed millions of more lives than Alexander the Great, Mohammed, and Napoleon put together. It all happened because his message and his physical resurrection transformed his early followers, who did not pick up the sword to defend themselves even during brutal persecutions, but rather they went about spreading his love and the need for his forgiveness by word and deed to all— regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, poverty, or social standing. Indeed, it is impossible to overestimate the radical change caused by the introduction of Christianity into the world. And his followers did so because they believed with all their heart, soul, and might the words of Jesus: ―I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me‖ (John 14:6). They echoed the conviction of Peter‘s words spoken to his fellow Jews: ―Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved‖ (Acts 4:12).


They took this stance because they knew that Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, did in fact physically and empirically rise from the dead. Addressing the heretical belief that Christ‘s resurrection was not literal, Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, expressed the thinking of the early Christians as follows: If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead . . . And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ―Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.‖ When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ―Death has been swallowed up in victory.‖ ―Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?‖ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:13-58). The early Christians knew that it was not their faith that validated Christ‘s resurrection, as many of today‘s modern theologians teach and preach, but that it was his physical resurrection that validated their faith. ―Greater Works‖ for the Body


Shortly before his death, Jesus said, ―Believe me for my very works‘ sake. Verily, verily I say unto you, greater works than these shall ye do.‖ They were ordinary men to whom Christ, admittedly the most extraordinary person ever to appear in human history, spoke these words. Strange prediction that. Stranger still that it has been fulfilled. Stranger still how it has been fulfilled. If Jesus meant that His disciples would do greater miracles than He, it certainly has not happened. If there have been any bona fide miracles at all, in the sense of events wrought in the external world by the immediate power of God without the use of second causes, they have not been as great as those of the Master. Certainly they have not been greater. The most that can even be claimed is a wonder of healing here and another there usually on the part of the lesser men rather than the greater men of the Church. But nowhere do any even claim to multiply loaves and fishes. None blight fig trees. And who has walked on water, raised the dead, or been raised from the dead? But there is one area in which the disciples have done the great works of the master—and greater works. First, they have done greater works for the bodies of men. When Christ uttered this prophecy, infanticide was a common thing. Quintilian and others regarded it as a beautiful custom to abandon infants. It was the followers of Jesus who had said ―Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not,‖ who put an end to this ―beautiful custom.‖ Clement, Origen, and Tertullian, the fathers of the Church, exposed the horror of it. The weakest of all creatures, the human infant, became the best protected of all as the followers of Jesus continued to much greater lengths the emancipation of Childhood. As James Staler has written: [Christ] converted the home into a church, and parents into His ministers; and it may be doubted whether He has not by this means won to Himself as many disciples in the course of the Christian ages as even by the institution of the church itself.


Murder for pleasure was eradicated by the disciples of Christ. When Jesus uttered the promise about greater works, the Romans regarded gladiatorial combats as the choicest of amusements. And the bloodier the battle of condemned slaves or captives, the more thrilling the entertainment. Telemachus leaped into the arena in order to separate the warriors but succeeded only in having himself stoned by an enraged mob of spectators to whom he was only a mad spoilsport. He was of course, a Christian. He died, but gladiatorial combats were to die with him as the Church went on to do greater works in this area than her Founder. It may be well for us to remember the background against which these transformations took place. To get an insight into Christianity‘s contribution to Roman moral culture generally we need only remember what that culture was at the time Christianity reached it. There is, perhaps, no more graphic portrait of the vileness of the Mediterranean world than that which is painted by Paul in the opening chapter of his epistle to the Romans. It is dismal indeed. William Barclay observed: When we read Romans 1:26-32 it might seem that this passage is the work of some almost hysterical moralist who was exaggerating the contemporary situation and painting it in colours of rhetorical hyperbole. It describes a situation of degeneracy of morals almost without parallel in human history. But there is nothing that Paul said that the Greek and Roman writers of the age did not themselves say. The Scottish scholar then proceeded to document his depiction with ample citations from ancient historians who commented upon this period of depraved history. The Coliseum was called the ―most characteristic relic of Pagan Rome.‖ In each of the twelve spectacles given by Aediles, from one hundred to five hundred pairs of gladiators appeared, to fight to the death with net, dagger, lances and trident, or with straight or curved blades ground to the finest edge and point. At the triumph of Aurelian, later, eight hundred pairs of gladiators fought ten thousand men during


the games of Trajan. Sometimes female gladiators fought, sometimes dwarfs, as under Domitian. And the condemned were sometimes burned in shirts of pitch to illuminate the gardens, or were hung on crosses and left to be torn by famished bears, before the populace. The combats of animals, with each other or with men, were always refreshing to this horrid thirst for cruel excitement. Criminals, dressed in the skins of wild beasts, were exposed to tortured and maddened bulls. Under Nero, four hundred tigers fought with elephants and bulls. At the dedication of the Coliseum, by Titus, five thousand animals were killed. The Rhinoceros, the hippo, the stag, the giraffe, even the crocodile and the serpent were introduced in what Tertullian fitly called ―this Devil‘s pomp‖ and there is scarcely one element of horror, which can be conceived in man‘s wildest dreams, which was not presented as a matter of luxury to make complete the ―Roman holiday‖ at the time when Christianity entered the capital. While we are speaking about barbaric customs, let us mention in passing what Christianity has done for barbaric peoples generally. To take but one example, consider cannibalism. Of all the atrocious deeds of man against man the most gruesome is cannibalism. With this practice of degenerate savagery Christ had no personal contact, yet its abolition is the work of those who, in His name, have done greater works than He. When a South Pacific islander told a European mocker of foreign missions that if it had not been for the missionaries the mocker would not be alive to say that he did not believe in missions, he was true to the record. It was through missionaries, a number of whom actually became the victims of this hideous cannibalism, that it has been almost entirely exterminated. Indeed, it should be further noted that the practice of sacrificing human beings to pagan gods was a common and nearly worldwide phenomenon before exposure to the influence of Christianity. For example, the Irish, before St. Patrick had brought the Christian gospel to them, ―sacrificed prisoners of war to war gods and newborns to the harvest gods.‖ Sacrificing humans was also a common practice among the pagan Prussians and Lithuanians even until the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The British author Edward Ryan noted in 1802


that these people ―would have done so to this day were it not for Christianity.‖ Another place where widespread human sacrifices occurred was in what is now Mexico. Here the Aztec Indians, a warlike people, frequently fought in order to acquire prisoners whom they used for human sacrifices. Their prisoners were commonly led up the stairs through thick clouds of incense to the top of the Great Pyramid. Here the victims were laid on a sacrificial block, their chests were cut open, and each prisoner‘s heart was torn out while he was still alive. According to Richard Townsend, ―Streams of blood from the many sacrificed prisoners poured down the stairway and sides of the monument [pyramid], forming huge pools on the stucco pavement.‖ The heads of the victims were commonly ―strung up on the skull rack as public trophies, while the captor-warriors were presented with a severed arm or thigh.‖ With great rejoicing, the severed body parts were taken home, where they were made into stew for special Aztec meals. The eating of human flesh was a ceremonial form of cannibalism. Very similar to the human sacrifices of the Aztecs were those of the Mayans. Howard La Fay describes the brutality: ―A priest ripped open the victim‘s breast with an obsidian knife and tore out the stillbeating heart.‖ The priests also drew blood from the victim‘s genitals. La Fay continues, ―Priests and pious individuals cut holes in their [prisoners‘] tongues and drew rope festooned with thorns through the wound to collect blood offerings.‖ Given the Christian precedence of having condemned abortion, infanticide, and gladiatorial contests of the Romans, it is not surprising that the European explorers in Mexico condemned the human sacrifices of the Aztec and Maya Indians. Referring to the gruesome religiously based human sacrifices of the Aztec and the Maya Indians, Hernando Cortes, the leader of the Conquistadors, said that it was ―the most terrible and frightful thing [he and his men] have ever witnessed.‖ Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of Cortes‘ surviving soldiers, wrote that as part of the sacrifices the Indians ate the flesh of the captured soldiers ―with a sauce of peppers and tomatoes. They sacrificed all our men in


this way, eating their legs and arms, offering their hearts and blood to their idols.‖ Cortes and his men had, of course, encountered unbridled paganism, and they engaged in war to eliminate its bloodcurdling abominations. Castillo‘s shocking descriptions show that the Conquistadors— often correctly seen as ruthless—nevertheless, still retained enough Christian values to be appalled by what they saw in the pagan sacrifices of the Aztec and Maya Indians. Cortes, says Castillo, had as his mission ―putting a stop to human sacrifices, injustices, and idolatrous worship.‖ Only a consistent cultural relativist or zealous multiculturalist would find fault with Cortes‘ men conquering the Mayas and Aztecs and thereby abolishing their inhumane rituals. It was another step in spreading Christ‘s teaching that human life is sacred, this time bringing it to the New World. In one of his parables, Jesus set forth the following concept regarding his approaching reign: ―The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened‖ (Matthew 13:33). It is agreed among Bible expositors that the ―leaven‖ of this parable signifies the pervasive and benevolent influence of the kingdom of Christ, as this ―leaven‖ would make its presence felt from the first century onward. In his classic work on the parables, Trench noted that Christianity, ―[w]orking from the centre to the circumference, by degrees. . . made itself felt, till at length the whole Roman world was, more or less, leavened by it.‖ Incidentally, if one is inclined to think that this appraisal is biased, perhaps we may appeal to the testimony of a writer who never could be accused of entertaining sympathy for Christianity. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), an agnostic (occasionally professing atheism), has been characterized as the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century. In 1950, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. He was a militant opponent of the religion of


Jesus Christ, even producing a popular essay titled, ―Why I am not a Christian.‖ I mention this to demonstrate that whatever testimony is elicited from him certainly will not arise from a heart that is disposed toward the Teacher from Nazareth. Be that as it may, Russell, oddly enough, became an unwitting witness to the truth of the ―leavening‖ activity of the Christian system in the Roman world. First, the philosopher commented concerning the previously mentioned barbarous practice of infanticide, as follows: ―Infanticide, which might seem contrary to human nature, was almost universal before the rise of Christianity, and is recommended by Plato to prevent over-population.‖ Second, Russell gave a nodding tribute to the influence of Christianity relative to the status of women in the Roman world: ―In antiquity, when male supremacy was unquestioned and Christian ethics were still unknown, women were harmless but rather silly, and a man who took them seriously was somewhat despised. ‖ Third, there is this comment regarding Christian benevolence in general: ―Christianity, as soon as it conquered the state, put an end to gladiatorial shows . . . [and thereby diminished] the widespread education in cruelty by which the populace of Roman towns were degraded. Christianity also did much to soften the lot of slaves. It established charity on a large scale, and inaugurated hospitals.‖ Taking a cue from Russell, let us expand a little on the topics of Christianity‘s influence on the condition of women as well as the practice of slavery, beginning with a quote from the apostle Paul: "There is neither Jew nor Greek—there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28. History, which will ever be found to corroborate revelation, proves that in most Pagan and Mohammedan nations, whether ancient or modern, woman has been cruelly and wickedly sunk below her proper level in social and domestic life, hated and despised from her birth, and her birth itself esteemed a calamity; in some countries not even allowed the rank of a moral and responsible agent; so utterly degraded that she even acquiesces in the murder of her female


offspring; without education; married without her consent; in a multitude of instances sold by her parents; refused the confidence of her husband, and banished from his table; on his death, doomed to the funeral pyre, or to contempt that renders life a burden. In such a condition she has been the household drudge, or the mere object of lust. She has ministered to the gratification of man's indolence or sensual appetite, but has not been his companion, his counselor, or his comforter. In barbarous countries she has been a slave; in civilized ones very generally little better than a kept mistress. Her mind has been left untaught, as if incapable or unworthy of instruction. She has been not only imprisoned in seclusion by jealousy, but degraded and rendered inferior and miserable by polygamy. Sometimes worshiped as a goddess; next fondled as a toy; then punished as a victim, she could never attain to dignity, and even with all her virtues could rarely appear but as a doll or a puppet. Exceptions to some extent may be made in favor of the polished Greeks and proud Romans—but only to some extent; for did time permit, and necessity require, it could be shown that neither Athenian refinement nor Roman virtue gave to woman her just rank by the side of her husband, or her proper place in his affection, esteem, and confidence. However, if we go to the Bible, we shall learn that it is to Christianity, as contrasted even with Judaism, that woman owes her true elevation. Christianity as in other things, so in this, is an enlargement of human privileges; and among other blessings which it conferred on the world, Christianity, as a matter of history, is responsible for the elevation of woman to her proper place and influence in the family and in society. To the oppressive and cruel customs of Mohammedanism and Paganism, in their treatment of the female sex—Christianity presents a beautiful and lovely contrast; while to the partial provisions for female rights in Judaism it adds a complete recognition of their claims. Christianity is the enemy of oppression in every form and every condition, and gives to every one his due. It tramples on no right, it


resents and resists all wrong—but no one is so indebted to its merciful and equitable reign as woman. From Christianity woman has derived her moral and social influence—yes, almost her very existence as a social being. The mind of woman, which many of the philosophers, legislators, and sages of antiquity doomed to inferiority and imbecility, was developed and granted intellectual freedom by Christianity. Christianity has a chequered record with respect to slavery. It has not always stood for abolition. But it has always taught amelioration. The New Testament clearly permitted slavery, but only with the master and the subject both brothers in Christ. In an empire which was literally half slave and half free with an unbridgeable gulf between, such brotherhood was drastic. And when a noble Christian, Perpetua, bent over and kissed her slave girl before both were gored to death as Christian martyrs, she was kissing the institution of slavery goodbye. When a bondman became a bishop of Rome it was becoming quite apparent that there were neither bond nor free in Christ. When black African slavery again raised its ugly head in modern times, it was banished from the British Empire by the relentless persistence of a Christ motivated Wilberforce. And while the churches in the United States did not always stand unequivocally for abolition, there is no question that, as Beardsley remarks: It must be admitted that the Church as an organization had little to do directly in bringing about this result, yet we must never forget that behind the public events and issues of the time there was the moral consciousness of the American people which was a determining factor in this mighty conflict. Slavery met its deathblow at the hands of a Christian civilization, and but for a quickened Christian consciousness this withering curse might still be upon us. What George Washington Carver said of the Methodist Simmons College, which he attended, could be said of Christian institutions generally: ―It was the place where I first discovered that I was a human being.‖ And speaking of the Methodists, we are reminded that Henry Clay, when he heard that the Methodist Episcopal Church had


split over slavery, went white in his face as he exclaimed, ―My God, that means war.‖ Hospitals for the sick and dying? The pre-Christian world had not heard of them. The most that could be said was that there were, in some places, shelters for the shipwrecked. I do not mean to suggest that there were no humane people in pagan antiquity. There were the noble Stoics: Epictetus, Cicero, Aurrelius. They knew to give charity and they gave it, but they did not know how to give it. The Stoic ―stands aloof and thinks what these deeds will bring him.‖ Epictetus says, ―Now another‘s grief is no concern of mine, but my own grief is.‖ Charity was known, but hardly love. Surely not agape love, not love which gives where there is no merit and can be no hope of return. On a greater scale than the Master ever had done it, the disciples gave without letting their right hand know what their left hand was doing. Cicero wrote: We should weigh with discrimination the worthiness of the object of our benevolence; we should take into consideration his moral character, his attitude toward us, the intimacy of his relation to us, and our social ties, as well as the services he has hitherto rendered in our interest. Contrast this with Christian charity. As Storrs has well stated the matter: Philosophers had sometimes suggested the sovereignty of the human sentiments as a remote and delightful ideal; but what has been truly called by one of their admirers their ―reasoned and passionless philanthropy‖ has had no power to solace sorrow, to relieve labor, to comfort the poor, to inspire or quicken despondent souls. Now came a law of charity to mankind: believed to have been incarnated in the Christ, warmly welcomed and ardently realized by his followers; which sought the weary, the needy and the sick; which knew no bounds of race or tongue, which prayed for even the judge who sentenced and the savage executioner whose blade struck the blow.


It is not sufficient to notice that the disciples of Christ learned from Him to give from unearned love and thus to alleviate the pitiable suffering of an inhumane humanity. For the first time in history, we meet with an effort to cure the cause of need as well as relieve the effects of it. Ulhorn, after an extensive survey of the charity of ancient Rome and a glance at the new element introduced by Christianity, observes that for the first time in history a systematic and curative charity was practiced, a charity which ministered to need in a way that tended to make itself unnecessary. Nor has Christianity stopped with a ministry to the bodies of men. It has gone on to care even for animals. Indeed, anything like a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals outside an evangelized nation, has never been heard of. Another historian calls to our attention that ―what is probably the first instance of legislation for protection of animals was due to Constantine, who ordered that only light rods or goads with short harmless points were to be used for horses used in public service, and that they were not to be overdriven.‖ ―Greater Works‖ for the Mind The disciples of Christ have done much for the bodies of men and beasts, but a great deal more for the minds of men. Nor have they forgotten those whose minds function abnormally. The first insane asylum, in the proper sense of the word, was the gift to the world of William Tuke, a Quaker. Before that, the world had not been unaware of the special needs of these unfortunates. But since the majority of mankind have adequate minds, the primary ministry of Christendom has been to these. In general, education is, as has often been said, the handmaid of religion. Where the Church has gone, the school has always followed her, occasionally preceded her. Americans, especially, know that every school of higher learning on the colonial seaboard and generally everywhere else has been established, in the first instance, by the Church. There is one apparent exception. The University of Pennsylvania was not established by the Church but came into being largely through the efforts of Benjamin Franklin. It is well to remember, however, that even in this case the founder acknowledged that the impetus toward 180

the building of the original academy came from his evangelist friend, George Whitefield. It was no longer necessary for the Church to foster the schools when the state, which was largely nurtured by the Church, awoke to her responsibilities. And so, many schools are now secular which were once maintained by religion. It is significant to see, however, that the Christian Church the world over maintains about as many schools as churches even today. And what of the ―silent billions‖ — those who cannot speak their needs and demands because they cannot read or write? What about the illiterate other half? Who is teaching them to read, to write, and to articulate their wants? In 1935, Frank Laubach (September 2, 1884 – June 11, 1970), while working at a remote location in the Philippines, developed the ―Each One Teach One‖ literacy program. It has been used to teach about 60 million people to read in their own language. He was deeply concerned about poverty, injustice and illiteracy, and considered them barriers to peace in the world. In 1955, he founded Laubach Literacy, which helped introduce about 150,000 Americans to reading each year and had grown to embrace 34 developing countries. An estimated 2.7 million people worldwide were learning to read through Laubachaffiliated programs each year. In 2002, this group merged with Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. to form ProLiteracy Worldwide. But even those who know the name of Frank Laubach, do they know that he was constrained in this great service to mankind by the love of Christ? And do they know that his chief agents, unpaid agents, were the far-flung missionaries of the cross? From the barbarian invasions to the present time, Christ‘s disciples have been building schools for the minds of men. But no less important than giving men schools to attend is to give them reasons for attending. It is not enough to have a place to study if there is no incentive to mental effort, which is admittedly a ―weariness to the flesh.‖ It is far more important, therefore, although far less conspicuous, that the Church has given not only places in which to study but a reason for studying. 181

What is the Christian reason for studying? As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, ―nature is the book of God.‖ Elementary children in Christian schools are taught that history is ―His story.‖ Psychology studies the laws of the mind which He has made, and literature the works of genius which He has given to all mankind. Christianity knows of only two sources of knowledge, special and common revelation. Special revelation is the supernatural disclosure which God has made of Himself and His redemption in the Bible. Common revelation is the natural revelation which God has made of Himself in the ordinary constitution of nature and human affairs. Both of these are revelation by and of God. Both lead to a knowledge of God. If that be so, what Christian will not be willing, indeed eager, to study? Some psychologist has stated that the average person does not use more than 10 percent of his intelligence potential. The problem back of all problems is therefore how to get men to use the ability which God has given them for the solving of problems. Is not the assurance that man has the privilege and duty of thinking God‘s thoughts after Him sufficient incentive for anyone? And has anyone ever been intellectually lazy who has thus sincerely believed? True religion, far from being activity merely of the emotions is the most powerful possible inducement to ratiocination. Consider, on the other hand, the effect of unbelief on scholarship. Suppose, for example, that the generality of men believed that the exact sciences were merely games (Abel). That nothing was worthwhile except art, sex, and a few other tangible pleasures (Dreiser), and that the beginning and end of thought was complete and unyielding despair (Bertrand Russell). Would they continue attending school? The world would play hooky. Men may study if they do not know at the outset that the search will lead up a blind alley, or they may study though it be intellectually unrewarding but financially remunerative. But why else will they study? It is not only, as Augustine said, that the human heart is restless till it finds its rest in God, but the human mind as well. We could fill this chapter and many more besides by merely listing without comment the names of the great thinkers of the world who have been motivated by the gospel. Everyone knows Kepler‘s famous statement that he, in his astronomical research, was merely 182

thinking God‘s thoughts after Him. Jonathan Edwards, who is regarded by many as the finest intelligence America ever produced and whose Inquiry into the Freedom of Will is often called the best piece of purely logical writing in existence, was intellectually a slave of the Bible. The noted French discoverer of bacteria was once bending over his microscope when his assistant came in, and, supposing him to be praying, the assistant began to tiptoe out of the room. When Pasteur heard him and looked up, the assistant said that he was sorry; he had thought Dr. Pasteur was at devotions. Pasteur replied, ―I was at devotions.‖ Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, once remarked that the almost accidental character of his discovery had reminded him of nothing so much as the doctrine of divine foreordination in which he had been reared in his Scottish home. And greater works than these have Christ‘s disciples done for the souls of men. First, their gospel has cleansed the guilt of men‘s souls. Guilt is written large in the hearts of men, a guilt felt toward someone greater than the finite person against whom the offence has been immediately committed. ―Against thee and thee only have I sinned.‖ Men who deny the very existence of God with their lips seem to tremble before Him in their hearts. As Calvin writes, ―The most audacious condemners of God are most alarmed, even at the noise of a falling leaf.‖ So it is that we have the rather familiar phenomenon that godless people become keenly aware of their sins when they suppose that death is upon them. A character in one of Ernest Hemingway‘s novels—an especially immoral sort—is asked if he never thinks of God. The reply is that he does sometimes—in the middle of the night when he is awakened by a thunderstorm. The predicament, which all seem to share with Lady Macbeth, of being unable to wash out the cursed spot of guilt, lies at the base of all man‘s griefs. Nor will it do to deny the reality of this guilt-consciousness or its significance. The cursed spot is there and it will not out until the Savior‘s forgiveness renders it white as snow. It is a fact repeated a billion times over that when the sinner loaded with his burden of guilt catches sight of the cross, he experiences the same deliverance which Bunyan‘s pilgrim knew—his burdens roll from his back to disappear forever.


The Gospel of Christ has brought not only cleansing from guilt, but also power in place of weakness. We read in many volumes on sociology, psychology, and education that the prime need of our time is in the area of motivation. We hear a philosopher say this: ―If I could always think what is true and do what is right, I would be willing to be turned into some sort of a clock.‖ An educator remarks: ―We need someone who can make virtue more attractive than vice.‖ And a statesman who says: ―Our greatest need is theological.‖ We have known all this for a very long time, but when the atom bomb fell, the truth seemed to thunder in our ears: ―Spiritual man is not keeping pace with mechanical man‖; ―We have a man who can make a bomb, where can we find someone who can make a man?‖ Democracy is a great ideal but who can make the ideal work? Right is right but who can make a person always love and do the right? Harold Begbie, the famous author of the documentary study of the London slums, Twice-Born Men, gives this testimony: When I visit the happy homes, and experience the gentleness and refinement of such as those whose life stories appear in this book, and compare them with the squalor and misery of the great majority of homes surrounding them, I am astonished that the world should be incredulous about religion, and that legislation should be so foolish as to attempt to do laboriously by enactments, clumsy and slow, what might be done instantly and easily by religion, if it had the full force of the community back of it. This writer has never lived in a slum but he has the same testimony. Of himself alone he is selfish, lustful, proud, lazy, greedy, foolish, vicious, vain, deceitful . . . He knows that the only reason—the only reason—he is not that way all the time and altogether is Jesus Christ. He knows that if he ever is sincerely unselfish, ever wholesome, ever humble, ever industrious, ever generous, ever wise, ever gentle, ever sober, ever honest . . . it is because of Jesus Christ and Him alone. And he knows that there are millions of people in the world now who are just like him and would give exactly the same witness.


As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5). And the evangelists of Christ have brought joy to the hearts of men. The symphony of this world is written in a minor key. Perhaps it is no accident that while Aristotle has been accepted as a satisfactory definer of tragedy, no one has been able to tell what comedy is. We know tragedy better than comedy. The great German philosopher Schopenhauer, mistaken for a bum in a Berlin park, was reprimanded by a policeman who asked, ―Who do you think you are?‖ Sadly he replied, ―I would to God I knew.‖ Not desiring to be alone with their own hearts, untold millions make themselves happy by rendering themselves unconscious of their grief through drugs and drink—for awhile. It takes a Shakespeare to describe the miseries of men, but it takes a Christ to bear them. ―Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest . . . learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.‖ The argument from joy is one of the greatest arguments for Christianity. It is invulnerable and overwhelming. No one who professes to know Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord will deny that he is happy—profoundly happy, blessed. Whether he is rich or poor, whether he is talented or mediocre, whether he is sick or well, whether he lives or dies, if he is in Christ Jesus, he will say with Paul, ―Rejoice, and again I say rejoice.‖


Chapter 8 The Gospel One day you will die. You were born to die. In fact, with each passing day you are one day closer to death no matter how hard you try to forget it. Everything about your life will be over. It is the end of everything about your earthly existence, and it will be irrelevant whether you were happy or sad, whether you were envied or pitied, got what you wanted or didn‘t. On the other hand, it is also true that you were made for eternity. Moreover, what you do right now literally counts forever. In the classic Muslim view, a person‘s eternal destiny is determined by the scales of justice. If one‘s good works outweigh the bad deeds, then the person goes to heaven. If the bad deeds outweigh the good deeds, the person goes to hell. This view is held by many professing Christians, who still entertain the idea that they can gain entrance into heaven and into the kingdom of God by living a good life. As long as they refrain from egregious sins such as murder, grand theft, or adultery, they think they have kept their moral slates clean enough to get them past the gates of judgment. But such a view is not the biblical gospel. As fallacious as that view is, there is a view in our current culture that is even more insidious in its subtlety and thus more pervasive. That doctrine is the doctrine of justification by death. It is an implicit universalism that assumes everyone goes to heaven when he or she dies. Perhaps the rankest evildoers, such as Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin, may not make it, but the average person certainly has nothing to worry about. Nothing transforms sinners into saints more miraculously or more frequently than death. Go to the funeral of the most wicked sinner you know and you will hear a eulogy that guarantees that person‘s entrance into the kingdom of God.


What drives this pervasive belief in justification by death? I think there are several factors. One is a misinformed idea of the character of God. We are told ad nauseum that God loves everyone unconditionally. The necessary inference that people draw from that is simple: If God loves me unconditionally, then there are no conditions that I must meet in order to enter into heavenly bliss. In a sense, God, if He is loving, is obligated to give me eternal life. The second driving factor is a widespread denial of hell. The whole concept of hell is so ghastly and difficult even to comprehend that we have a visceral response of denial to it. We cannot imagine any of our loved ones ever being assigned to such a dreadful place. We also find in our culture a rejection of the whole idea of a final judgment. Never mind that our Lord taught again and again that each one of us will stand before God and will be held accountable for his or her sins — to the extent that even every idle word we speak will be brought into judgment. No one escapes the judgment of God. We all must stand before that final tribunal and be judged--not on a curve, not according to how we stack up against other people in this world, but how we stand according to God‘s standard of righteousness, a standard that none of us will ever reach. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing you can do or refrain from doing in order to merit entrance into God‘s eternal kingdom. You have absolutely no ability to undo the wrong you have already done in your life and the just punishment you deserve. God is holy and you are not. Unless God mercifully initiates reconciliation, you are helpless and hopeless. That is the bad news according to the Bible. So what is the good news? In a very real sense, the Christian gospel, the ―good news‖, is very simple. When the Father gave the incarnate Son a name, He proclaimed His rescue mission in no uncertain terms. Jesus, the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Joshua, means "Savior." Now, "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the Savior--that's been the joyful news preached by genuine Christians for 2000 years.


But you might ask: "A Savior? To save me from what?" That's certainly a fair question. The word savior implies that we need to be saved from something. Saved is a synonym for rescued or delivered. It implies there's some kind of threatening condition, a dangerous, desperate, or deadly condition from which we need to be rescued. The question is, from what? Unfortunately, the church itself has confused the issue, perhaps because the majority of purported Christians today don‘t know themselves what the biblical gospel really is. If you listen to the way some preachers speak about the gospel, quite frankly, the condition of unbelief doesn't sound so grave. You get the idea that humanity mainly needs to be rescued from its lack of fulfillment. Maybe your marriage hasn't worked out according to plan; or your child isn't turning out to be tomorrow's Einstein; or your dream career has turned out to be a dead end. You aren‘t going to be a business mogul, movie star, professional athlete or even the next American Idol. You understand. Life just doesn't deliver. Life is hard. Life is unfair – and then you die. According to the gospel some are preaching, Jesus will take care of all that. Jesus will fix your marriage; He'll help you raise confident kids, brimming with self-esteem; He'll help you climb that corporate ladder or breathe new life into your business. Jesus will enable you to finally become the ―you‖ that you always wanted to be. The only danger from which you need salvation is the shattering of all your dreams. But Jesus will take care of it--He'll rescue you from your unfulfilled life. I've also heard people presenting the gospel as if the great hope of salvation is relief from debilitating habits. Jesus has come to enable you to get control of your life. He's the step stool, the boost you need to get out of the hole you've fallen into. That kind of salvation is especially attractive to a society like ours that is overcome by lust and passion. Many are enslaved by sinful habits: drinking, drugs, anger, pornography, overeating, etc. But Jesus will come along and fix all that. He'll pluck you out of the flood of dissipation by saving you from your drives and desires so you won't destroy your life. Finally, sometimes I hear the gospel presented as an invitation into the warm, loving family that you always wanted but never had—a ticket


to eternal happiness in God‘s heavenly home. As more and more families fall apart, as this nation more sharply divides along economic lines into ―haves‖ and ―have nots‖, as technology creates even greater feelings of alienation and isolation, this message sounds increasingly appealing to the lost and lonely people that populate this country by the millions. But Jesus will meet those felt needs as well. The local church will provide non-judgmental acceptance, companionship, entertainment and purpose. Jesus will provide a constant supply of smiling faces and social activities to rescue you from your empty, lonely life. But finding fulfillment, overcoming bad habits and joining a perfect, loving family cannot be the gospel. Why not? Because not everybody in the world is unfulfilled. In fact, I think this idea of lacking fulfillment is purely a byproduct of our western culture. Throughout the world there are many who live expecting very little out of life. They don't experience a lack of fulfillment--there's nothing to fulfill. On the other hand, many people are very content with their present condition. They've got all the wine, women, and song money can buy. They are indeed living the so-called ―good life.‖ And not everyone is driven to a point of desperation and disaster by their passions either. There are many people who possess a high moral standard by human standards and/or have the ability to exercise a certain measure of self-control over their behavior. And there are also people who are happy to not be burdened by family obligations and actually love modern ―relationships‖. So those things cannot be the universal problem from which all of mankind needs to be saved. The real problem is sin and guilt. That's the issue. God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from the consequence of our sin, and everybody falls into the category of sinner. It doesn't matter whether you're among the haves or the have-nots, whether you have great expectations or none at all, whether you're consumed by your passions or exhibit a degree of self-control and discipline--you are still a sinner. And you know it. You have broken the law of God and He's angry about it. Unless something happens to change your condition, you're on your way to eternal hell. Worse, you are helpless to do anything about it. All attempts at moral reformation are doomed to failure – you will never 189

be perfect no matter how hard you try. You need to be rescued from the consequences of your sin. You need to be rescued from God‘s wrath. Sin and guilt - those are the issues the true gospel solves. But what of those who do not feel the need to be saved? If you cannot see your desperate condition, it is probably because you love the darkness more than the light. You do not want to be rescued. You want what you want. You want to be your own god. You definitely do not want to repent and submit to Christ as your Lord. At the very least, you neither understand who God really is or who you really are. The truth is, even when you are delivered from the ultimate danger of God's wrath against sin, you might never realize your dreams. When you come to Christ, the Lord realigns your thinking so that all you ever wanted, all you used to strive for, you count as loss, waste, garbage (cf. Paul in Phil. 3:4-8). Coming to Christ means the end of you. Also, though you'll experience the power of the Holy Spirit to gain victory over sin, you may never attain total dominance over your drives and passions this side of heaven. Like Paul, you will strive with sin to your dying day (cf. Rom. 7:13-25). Issues of fulfillment and sinful passions will be dealt with, in the Lord's time and in the Lord's way. So if you've come to Christ primarily to find fulfillment or to escape from bad habits, or any other reason besides your awareness that you are a sinner justly under the wrath of God, Jesus may not be what you're looking for. Complete trust in Christ as your Lord and Savior should not be considered lightly. Jesus himself advises wouldbe disciples to count the cost. Moreover, he promises persecution to those who follow him. Indeed, those who are unwilling to share in His humiliation are unworthy to share in His glory. Jesus poses the question like this: what does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world but lose his very soul? God sent His Son into the world to save His people from their sins. Humanity's real destroyer is sin, and the guilt for sin is a real guilt, a God-imposed guilt that damns to eternal hell. That is why people need to be saved, rescued, and delivered. That is what people must understand about the gospel, and that is what must be proclaimed.


The biblical message is clear. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). The apostle Peter proclaimed to a hostile audience, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The apostle John wrote, "He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). Again and again, Scripture stresses that Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation for the world. "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). Only Christ can atone for sin, and therefore only Christ can provide salvation. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12). Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." Confessing Jesus as Lord means humbly submitting to His authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Believing that God has raised Him from the dead involves trusting in the historical fact of His resurrection- the pinnacle of Christian faith and the way the Father affirmed the deity and authority of the Son (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31). True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is more than simply being sorry for sin. It is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin and pursue holiness (Isaiah 55:7). Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15); and "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine" (John 8:31). It isn't enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2:19), but they don't love and obey Him. Their faith is not genuine. True saving faith always responds in obedience (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus is the sovereign Lord. When you obey Him you are acknowledging His lordship and submitting to His authority. That 191

doesn't mean your obedience will always be perfect, but that is your goal. There is no area of your life that you withhold from Him. All who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior will one day face Him as their Judge: "God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:3031). A day is coming when you will have to give an account to God. Second Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." ―And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment‖ (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible speaks of two ways in which people die. There are those who die in faith and, because of that faith, are linked to the atoning work of Christ and receive the benefits of His atoning work, including entrance into His kingdom. The other way that the Bible speaks of dying is dying in sin. Those who die in sin are those who die in a state of impenitence. Such people have never bowed the knee to the living God and cried out from their helplessness for His grace. Instead of clinging to the cross and coming with nothing in our hands, it is our nature as fallen creatures to try to bring something in our hands that will pay the price that needs to be paid for our redemption. This is the height or, perhaps, the nadir of folly. The only thing we can be sure of is that death will give us judgment. The question is, do we have that faith by which we are linked to the righteousness of Christ and all the benefits of His ministry on our behalf, or will we stand alone at that judgment seat of Christ? At the judgment, as you stand before your Creator and Lord, you must give an account for your life and, whether you want to or not, you


will glorify God. You will either die ―in Christ‖ or ―in your sin.‖ You will either receive justice or receive mercy. You will either receive wrath or receive forgiveness. God will be glorified either way. The inescapable question you must answer during this earthly life is this: Who do you say Jesus is? How will you respond? He alone can redeem you--free you from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can transform you, restore you to fellowship with God, and give your life eternal purpose. Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?



Part II

Why Do I Believe What I Believe? A Guide To Understanding Biblical Christianity For The Christian


What is to be gained if we are so intent in reaching out to the unchurched that we then unchurch the reached? . . . In fact, when we listen to the church today, at least in the West, we are often left with the impression that Christianity actually has very little to do with truth. Christianity is only about feeling better about ourselves, about leaping over our difficulties, about being more satisfied, about have better relationships, about getting on with our mothers-in-law, about understanding teenage rebellion, about coping with our unreasonable bosses, about finding greater sexual satisfaction, about getting rich, about receiving our own private miracles, and much else besides. It is about everything except truth. And yet this truth, personally embodied in Christ, gives us a place to stand in order to deal with the complexities of life, such as broken relations, teenage rebellion, and job insecurities. — David F. Wells

Chapter 9 Theological Foundations In the nineteenth century theologians and historians, busy with a comparative analysis of world religions, sought to distill the essence of religion itself and reduce Christianity to its least common denominator. The term Wesen (being or essence) appeared in a plethora of German theological studies, including Adolf Harnack‘s book What Is Christianity? Harnack reduced Christianity to two essential affirmations, the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man, neither of which is espoused by the Bible in the sense articulated by Harnack. This movement to reduce religion to its essence had a subtle but dramatic effect. The study of religion supplanted the study of theology in the academic world. This change was subtle in that, to the general populace, religion and theology were the same thing, so people felt no dramatic impact. Even in the academic world the shift was widely accepted with barely a whimper.


But there is a profound difference between the study of theology and the study of religion. Historically the study of religion has been subsumed under the headings of anthropology, sociology, or even psychology. The academic investigation of religion has sought to be grounded in a scientific-empirical method. The reason for this is quite simple. Human activity is part of the phenomenal world. It is activity that is visible, subject to empirical analysis. Psychology may not be as concrete as biology, but human behavior in response to beliefs, urges, opinions, and so forth can be studied in accordance with the scientific method. To state it more simply, the study of religion is chiefly the study of a certain kind of human behavior, be it under the rubric of anthropology, sociology, or psychology. The study of theology, on the other hand, is the study of God. Religion is anthropocentric, theology is theocentric. The difference between religion and theology is ultimately the difference between God and man—hardly a small difference. Again, it is a difference of subject matter. The subject matter of theology proper is God; the subject matter of religion is man. The Study of Scripture Historically the Bible was received by the church as a normative depository of divine revelation. Its ultimate Author was thought to be God himself. This is why the Bible was called the verbum Dei (Word of God) or the vox Dei (voice of God). It was considered to be a product of divine self-disclosure. The information contained within it comes, not as result of human empirical investigation or human speculation, but by supernatural revelation. It is called revelation because it comes from the mind of God to us. Historically Christianity claimed to be and was received as revealed truth, not truth discovered via human insight or ingenuity. Paul begins his Epistle to the Romans with these words: ―Paul, a servant [slave] of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God . . .‖ (Rom. 1:1). What does the phrase ―gospel of


God‖ mean? Does the word of indicate possession or does it mean simply ―about‖? Is Paul saying that the gospel is something about God, or something from God? Historic Christianity would consider this question an exercise in the fallacy of the false dilemma or the either/or fallacy. Classical Christianity would say that the gospel is a message that is both about God and from God. At the same time the church has always recognized that the Bible was not written by the finger of God. God did not write a book, have it published by a publishing company, and then drop it to earth by parachute. The church has always acknowledged that the Scriptures were composed and written by human authors. The burning issue today is this: Were these human authors writing their own unaided opinions and insights, or were they uniquely endowed as agents of revelation, writing under the inspiration and superintendence of God? If we say that the Bible is a product of only human opinion and insight, we can still speak about biblical theology in the sense that he Bible contains human teaching about God, but we can no longer speak about biblical revelation. If God is the ultimate Author of the Bible, we can speak of both biblical revelation and biblical theology. If man is the ultimate author, then we are restricted to speaking about biblical theology or theologies. If that is the case, we could justly regard biblical theology as a subdivision of religion, as merely one aspect of human studies about God. The Study of History A second way we study theology is historical. Historical theology does involve a study of what people who are not inspired agents of revelation teach about God. We examine historical councils, creeds, and writings of theologians such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Karl Barth, and others. We study various theological traditions to learn how each one understood the content of biblical theology. On the one hand this may be called a study of religion in the sense that it is the study of religious thought.


We may be motivated to study historical theology merely to understand the history of religious thinking. In this scenario the subject matter is human opinion. Or we may be motivated to study historical theology to learn what others have learned about God. In this scenario the subject matter is God and the things of God. Of course we could be motivated to study historical theology by a combination of these two or for other reasons. The point is that we can have either a theological interest primarily, or a religious interest, as long as we recognize that they are not identical. The Study Of Nature A third way of studying theology is by studying nature for clues it gives about God‘s character. This we call natural theology. Natural theology refers to information about God that is gleaned from nature. People approach natural theology from two distinct vantage points. First there are those who view natural theology as a theology derived from sheer human speculation—by unaided reason reflecting philosophically on nature. Second are those who, in accord with the historic approach to natural theology, see it as the product of and based on natural revelation. Revelation is something God does. It is his action of self-disclosure. Natural theology is something we acquire. It is the result of either human speculation, viewing nature as a neutral object-in-itself, or of human reception of information given by the Creator in and through his creation. The second approach views nature not as neutral object-in-itself that is mute, but as a theater of divine revelation where information is transmitted through the created order. From the sixteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth, no Reformed theologian denied the validity of natural theology derived from natural revelation. The strong antipathy in our day to theology based on unaided human speculation has brought in its wake a widespread and wholesale rejection of all natural theology.


This departure, in part a reaction against Enlightenment rationalism, is a departure from historic Reformed theology and from biblical theology. Both Roman Catholicism and historic Reformed theology embraced natural theology gleaned from natural revelation. The reason for this substantial agreement is because the Bible, which both sides regarded as a special revelation, clearly teaches that, in addition to God‘s revelation of himself in Scripture, there is also the sphere of divine revelation found in nature. Classical theology made an acute distinction between special revelation and general revelation. The two kinds of revelation are distinguished by the terms special and general because of the difference in content-scope and in the audience of each. Special revelation is special because it provides specific information about God that cannot be found in nature. Nature does not teach us God‘s plan for salvation; Scripture does. We learn many more specifics about the character and activity of God from Scripture than we can ever glean from creation. The Bible is also called special revelation because the information contained in it is unknown by people who have never read the Bible or had it proclaimed to them. General revelation is general because it reveals general truth about God and because its audience is universal. Every person is exposed to some degree to God‘s revelation in creation. The most germane biblical basis for a general or natural revelation is Paul‘s statement in Romans: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,


so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21) God directs his wrath to mankind because of their repression of natural revelation. God may be known because he has shown what may be known about Himself. This showing or revealing is ―plain‖ or clear. Through creation itself, God‘s invisible attributes, though invisible, are ―clearly seen‖—that is, they are seen by or through the things that God made. This is almost universally understood to mean that God clearly reveals himself in and through nature, that there is a general or natural revelation. Does this ―plain‖ revelation ―get through‖ to us and yield any knowledge of God? Paul does not leave us in doubt. He says this divine relation is ―seen‖ and ―understood.‖ To see and understand something is to have some kind of knowledge about it. Paul says that ―they knew God,‖ making it plain that natural revelation yields a natural theology or a natural knowledge of God. God‘s wrath is present, not because men fail to receive his natural revelation, but because, after receiving this knowledge, mankind fails to act appropriately. They refuse to honor God or be grateful to him. They suppress the truth of God and, as Paul later says, ―They did not like to retain God in their knowledge‖ (Rom. 1:28). People reject the natural knowledge they have of God. This rejection, however, does not annihilate either the revelation or the knowledge itself. The sin of mankind is in refusing to acknowledge the knowledge they have. They act against the truth that God reveals and they clearly receive. The believer who acquiesces in special revelation is now in a posture to respond properly to general revelation. In this regard the Christian should be the most diligent student of both special and natural revelation. Our theology should be informed by both the Bible and nature. The two come from the same revelatory source, God


himself. The two revelations do not conflict; they reflect the harmony of God‘s self-disclosures. All truth is God‘s truth. A final way we study theology is through speculative philosophical theology. This approach can be driven either by a prior commitment to natural revelation or by a conscious attempt to counter natural revelation. The first is a legitimate reason for the Christian; the second is an act of treason against God, based on the pretense of human autonomy. In all these various approaches there can be a study of theology rather than a mere analysis of religion. When we engage in the quest to understand God, it is theology. When our quest is limited to understanding how people react to theology, it is religion. Queen of Sciences A God-centered view of theology includes a study of mankind, but this is from a theological perspective. There are many subdivisions of the discipline of theology in this theocentric paradigm, one of which is anthropology. In contrast, the ―modern‖ man-centered (anthropocentric) view of theology inverts the aforementioned divisions causing theology to be a subset of anthropology. Thus, in the classical curriculum, theology was referred to as the ―queen of the sciences‖ and all other disciplines were her handmaidens. In the ―modern‖ curriculum of ―religious studies‖, man is king and the former queen is relegated to a peripheral status of insignificance. In his monumental work, No Place for Truth, David F. Wells writes: The disappearance of theology from the life of the Church, and the orchestration of that disappearance by some of its leaders, is hard to miss today, but oddly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evangelical world -- in the vacuous worship that is so prevalent, for example, in the shift from God to the self as the central focus of faith,


in the psychologized preaching that follows this shift, in the erosion of its conviction, in its strident pragmatism, in its inability to think incisively about the culture, in its reveling in the irrational. Citing Ian T. Ramsey, Wells speaks of our present condition as a church without theology and a theology without God. A church without theology or a theology without God is simply not an option for the Christian faith. One can have a religion without God or theology, but one cannot have Christianity without them. In the remainder of Section II, we will frequently view Reformed theology from a historical perspective. As such, we begin our study by asserting at the outset that Reformed theology is a theology. As a theology it has confessional, reflective, and behavioral aspects. But, more importantly, it should never be forgotten that Reformed theology is driven first and foremost by its understanding of the character of God.


Chapter 10 The spread of Calvinism was unusual. In contrast to Catholicism, which had been maintained by civil and military force, and Lutheranism, which survived in becoming a religion of politics, Calvinism had, for the most part, only its consistent logic and its fidelity to the Scriptures. Within a generation it spread across Europe. -– Charles Miller

The Protestant Reformation and Reformed Theology Origins Reformed Theology is rooted in the sixteenth-century religious renewal in Europe that we refer to as the Protestant Reformation. But this great movement was not an isolated phenomenon. It did not simply begin with Martin Luther‘s (1483-1546) act of posting his Ninety-five Theses on the church doors of Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517, even though those theses were soon translated into numerous languages and distributed to the masses. In one sense, the Reformation originated in Luther‘s so-called ―tower experience,‖ which probably predated his theses by a few years. Through this experience, Luther came to grasp the definitive doctrine of the Reformation: justification by gracious faith alone. But in another sense, the Reformation flowed out of earlier attempts for renewal dating back to at least the 11th Century (e.g., John Wycliffe (1324-1384) and the Lollards in England). All of these men are properly called forerunners of the Reformation rather than Reformers because, although they anticipated many of the emphases of the Reformation, they lacked a complete understanding of the critical doctrine of justification by gracious faith alone. These forerunners of the Reformation were morally, doctrinally and practically united in their opposition to medieval Roman Catholic abuses. This opposition is critical to note, since the Reformation began primarily as a reaction to the abuses of Roman Catholicism. Luther did not set out to destroy the Roman Catholic Church and to establish a 203

new church. His initial intent was to purge the Roman Catholic Church of abuses. Reformed theology thus cannot be fully understood apart from its reaction to problems in the church, such as: Papal abuses (immoral conduct lived out and condoned, even by the popes); Papal pretentiousness (claims to apostolic authority); captivity of the word (withholding access to Scripture for laypeople, thus keeping them in bondage to ―official‖ interpretations by the Church); elevation of monasticism (superiority of the so-called religious life); usurped mediation (other forms of mediation with God besides Christ such as Mary, intercession of saints, etc.); the role of good works ( teaching that both grace and works were necessary for salvation). The Protestant response to Roman Catholic abuses gradually settled into five Reformation watchwords or battle cries, centered on the Latin word solus, meaning ―alone.‖ These battle cries, more fully expounded later, served to contrast Protestant teaching with Roman Catholic tenets as follow: Protestant Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) Faith alone (sola fide) Grace alone (sola gratia) Christ alone (solus Christus) Glory to God alone (soli Deo Gloria)

Roman Catholic Scripture and tradition Faith and works Grace and merit Christ, Mary, saints God, saints, and church

The first of these battle cries deals with the fundamental issue of authority. The middle three deal with the basics of salvation, and the final one addresses worship. In early Protestantism, both Lutheran and Reformed believers embraced these five watchwords. Regrettably, Luther and Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), the early leader of the Swiss Reformation, parted ways in October 1529 during the infamous Marburg Colloquy, when they could not reach agreement on the nature of Christ‘s presence in the Lord‘s Supper. From this time on, Protestantism divided into two traditions, Lutheranism and Calvinism – the later being the Reformed


tradition as understood and expressed in the writing of John Calvin and his fellow Reformers. Reformed theology has stood the test of time. Most Protestant denominations that originated in the Reformation were founded on Calvinistic confessions of faith (e.g. Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Baptist, etc.). Thus, all of these Protestant denominations were essentially in agreement on all of the fundamentals of the Faith, with the major point of disagreement being the doctrine of infant baptism. Reformation theology prevailed for the most part in Protestant evangelicalism for many, many decades, but was diluted in the nineteenth century because of several influences, such as the Enlightenment in Europe and Finneyism in America. By the midtwentieth century, Reformed theology had declined dramatically in the Western world, having been assaulted by nineteenth-century liberal theology and revived Arminianism. Nonetheless, Reformed theology has a bright future, for it offers much to people who seek to believe and practice the whole counsel of God. Reformed theology aims to do so with both clear-headed faith and warm-hearted spirituality, which, when conjoined, produce vibrant living in the home, the church, and the marketplace to the glory of God. It confesses with Paul, ―For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever‖ (Rom. 11:36). That, after all, is what Scripture, Reformed theology, and life itself are all about. Classic Reformed Theology - Introduction Reformed theology is systematic. The science of systematic theology is so called because it attempts to understand doctrine in a coherent and unified manner. It is not the goal of systematic theology to impose on the Bible a system derived from a particular philosophy. Rather its goal is to discern the interrelatedness of the teachings of Scripture itself. Historically the systematic theologian assumed the Bible is the Word of God, and as such is not filled with internal conflict and confusion. Though many themes are treated by many different human authors over a vast period of time, the message that emerges


was thought to be from God and therefore coherent and consistent. In this case, consistency is not considered to be the ―hobgoblin of little minds.‖ God‘s mind is by no means a little one. In the modern church the assumptions of the past are not always retained. Many have rejected the divine inspiration of Scripture and with it any commitment to a unified revelation. When one approaches the Bible as purely a human document, one need not reconcile the teachings of its various authors. From this viewpoint, systematic theology usually is an attempt to explain the Bible in light of and under the control of a system brought to the Bible from the outside. Others eschew systems altogether and embrace a theology that is selfconsciously relativistic and pluralistic. They set biblical authors in opposition to each other, and they see the Bible itself as a collection of conflicting theologies. Classical Reformed theology, on the other hand, does regard the Bible as God‘s Word. Though it recognizes that the Scriptures were penned by different writers at different times, the divine inspiration of the whole carries with it the unity and coherency of the truth of God. Therefore the Reformed quest for a systematic theology is an effort to discover and define the system of doctrine taught internally by the Scriptures themselves. Because theology is systematic, every doctrine of the faith touches in some way every other doctrine. For example, how we understand the person of Christ affects how we understand his work of redemption. If we view Jesus merely as a great human teacher, then we are inclined to see his mission as primarily one of moral instruction or influence. If we regard him as the Son of God incarnate, then this frames our understanding of his mission. Conversely, our understanding of the work of Christ also influences our understanding of his person. Perhaps no doctrine has greater bearing on all other doctrines than the doctrine of God. How we understand the nature and character of God himself influences how we understand the nature of man, who bears God‘s image; the nature of Christ, who works to satisfy the


Father; the norms of which are based on God‘s character, and a myriad of other theological considerations, all drawing on our understanding of God. Reformed theology is first and foremost theocentric rather than anthropocentric. That is, it is God-centered rather than man-centered. The God-centeredness by no means denigrates the value of human beings. On the contrary, it establishes their value. Reformed theology maintains a high view of the worth and dignity of human beings. It differs radically at this point from all forms of humanism in that humanism assigns an intrinsic dignity to man, while Reformed theology sees the dignity of man as being extrinsic. That is to say, man‘s dignity is not inherent. It does not exist in and of itself. Ours is a derived, dependent, and received dignity. In and of ourselves we are of the dust. But God has assigned a remarkable value and worth to us as his creatures made in his image. He is the source of our life and our very being. He has cloaked us with a robe of value and worth. In God‘s plan of redemption for fallen mankind, the goal of redemption is the manifestation of the glory of God. But in God‘s plan of redemption we also see His concern for the well-being of His creation. God‘s glory is manifested in and through his work of redemption. It is even manifested in the punishment of the wicked. God displays with startling majesty both his ineffable grace and his righteous judgment. Even in God‘s judgment he vindicates the value of man by punishing the evil that so despoils human life. Reformed theology includes all the essential evangelical doctrines, such as the deity of Christ; objective atonement; the person and work of the Holy Spirit, etc. It also includes many doctrines developed by theological giants such as Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Martin Luther. Similarly, the ―doctrine of God‖ as confessed in Reformed theology does not, in one sense, differ significantly from what is also confessed by other Christian communions, however, in another sense,


it is also true that the most distinctive aspect of Reformed theology is its doctrine of God. But how are we to understand this seemingly contradictory statement? Please permit me to clarify: though the Reformed doctrine of God is not all that different from that of other confessional bodies, the way this doctrine functions in Reformed theology is unique. Reformed theology applies the doctrine of God relentlessly to all other doctrines, making it the chief control factor in all theology. Reformed Theology Is Theocentric Thus, if we had to reduce Reformed theology to one concept, we might be safest to echo B.B. Warfield, who said that to be Reformed means to be theocentric. The primary interest of Reformed theology is the triune God, for the transcendent-immanent, fatherly God in Jesus Christ is God Himself. Reformed Christians are people whose theology is dominated by the idea of God. The Reformed Christian is always placing in the foreground the thought of God. To be Reformed is to stress the comprehensive, sovereign, fatherly lordship of God over everything: every area of creation, every creature‘s endeavors, and every aspect of the believer‘s life. The ruling motif in Reformed theology is, ―In the beginning God . . . ―(Gen. 1:1). In His relation to us, God has only rights and powers; He binds Himself to duties sovereignly and graciously only by way of covenant. In covenant, He assumes the duties and responsibilities of being a God unto us, but that does not detract from His being the first cause and the last end of all things. The universe is ruled not by chance or fate, but by the complete, sovereign rule of God. We exist for one purpose: to give Him glory. We have only duties to God, no rights. Any attempt to challenge this truth is doomed. Romans 9:20b asks, ―Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why has thou made me thus?‖ God enacts His laws for every part of our lives and demands unconditional obedience. We are called to serve Him with body and soul, in worship and daily work, every second of every day.


To be Reformed, then is to be concerned with the complete character of the Creator-creature relationship. It is to view all of life Coram Deo, that is, living before the face of God. The Reformed Christian sees God behind all phenomena and recognizes the hand of God in all of this world‘s events, working out His will. He casts himself on the grace of God alone, excluding every trace of dependence on self from the whole work of his salvation. The doctrine of God—a fatherly, sovereign God in Christ Jesus—is therefore the center of Reformed theology. R.C. Sproul puts it this way: ―How we understand the nature and character of God himself influences how we understand the nature of man, who bears God‘s image; the nature of Christ, who works to satisfy the Father; the nature of salvation, which is effected by God; the nature of ethics, the norms of which are based on God‘s character; and a myriad of other theological considerations, all drawing on our understanding of God.‖ So Reformed Christians define all doctrine in a God-centered way. Sin is horrible because it is an affront to God. Salvation is wonderful because it brings glory to God. Heaven is glorious because it is the place where God is all in all. Hell is infernal because it is where God manifests His righteous wrath. God is central to all of those truths. Consider the example of the true reason for the horror of sin. A Christian may say that sin is damaging and leads to wretchedness, but without a God-centered perspective, he will miss the most important emphasis of all. Sin is an affront to God Himself, as David confesses in Psalm 51:4: ―Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.‖ The most common word in the epistle to the Romans, the greatest doctrinal text of the Bible, is not grace, faith, believe, or law, but God. Most of the great theological statements in Romans begin with God: * God gave them over. * God will give to each person according to what he has done.


* * * *

God God God God

will judge men‘s secrets through Jesus Christ. set Him forth as propitiation. justifies the ungodly. has poured out His love into our hearts.

As Reformed Christians, we are enamored with God. We are overwhelmed by His majesty, His beauty, His holiness, and His grace. We seek His glory, desire His presence, and model our lives after Him. Other Christians say that evangelism or revival is their great concern, and these things must concern us greatly, of course. But ultimately, we have only one concern: to know God, to serve Him, and see Him glorified. That is our main objective. The salvation of the lost is important because it leads to the hallowing of God‘s name and the coming of His kingdom. Demonstrating God‘s love to our fellow man is important because it helps us do God‘s will on earth as it is done in heaven. Bible study and prayer are important because they lead us into communion with Him. Finally, God-centeredness has been the trademark of the church, and Reformed theology in particular, through the centuries. Here are some examples: * Augustine. One significant reason the Reformed tradition has held the early church theologian and author Augustine in high regard is his theocentric perspective on life and salvation. Listen to him as he writes about his conversion: During all those years [of rebellion], where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to Thy easy yoke? How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! Thou didst drive them from me, Thou who art the true, the sovereign joy. Thou didst drive them from me and took their place, Thou who art sweeter than all pleasure, . . . who dost outshine all light . . . who dost surpass all honor, . . . O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.


* John Calvin. Calvin‘s life offers abundant commentary on theocentrism. Despite shortcomings, he strove to live soli Deo Gloria. That goal bore fruits of godliness in his character. When Theodore Beza broke the news of Calvin‘s death to the Geneva Academy students, he said, ―Having been a spectator of his conduct for sixteen years, . . . I can now declare, that in him all men may see a most beautiful example of the Christian character, an example which it is as easy to slander as it is difficult to imitate.‖ * Jonathan Edwards. Calvin‘s most noble group of successors, the Puritans, aimed to live all of life theocentrically. That is perhaps best illustrated by the life and words of Jonathan Edwards, the New England Reformed theologian of the eighteenth century, who said: The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husband, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean. This kind of God-centered passion has been mostly lost because of our backsliding and the theological errors of our day. Too many of us today present God as more user-friendly than His own Word does. We want to make people feel comfortable, so we avoid telling them anything that will make them uneasy. We condone materialism, worldliness, and triviality because we have so little sense of an ever-present, infinitely holy God. But when the Holy Spirit shows us the Father‘s divine generosity to us in His Son, together with the absolute freeness of His grace, we wholeheartedly yearn to glorify God with all that is within us. As Maurice Roberts writes:


The realization that God has chosen an individual to life and glory, though he was not a whit better than others, leads the mature Christian to cherish the most ecstatic feelings of gratitude to our heavenly Father. With an upturned face the adoring believer confesses to heaven that, apart from eternally given grace, he would never have believed in Christ, nor even have wished to believe. Then, lowering his gaze and covering his streaming eyes, the grateful Christian exclaims: ―My Father and my God! To Thee alone be everlasting glory for such unmerited grace!‖ Reformed Theology Is Catholic In the seventeenth century a dispute arose in the Reformed community in Holland. A group of theologians became known as the Remonstrants because they remonstrated (protested) against five articles of Reformed theology. These five points later became known as the ―Five Points of Calvinism,‖ which have been summarized by the popular acrostic TULIP. The acrostic (which we shall examine more closely in Chapter 12) stands for Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints. The Synod of Dort condemned the Remonstrants and reaffirmed the five points as integral to orthodox Reformed theology. Since this synod it has become increasingly popular to view Reformed theology exclusively in light of these five points. Although these five points may be central to Reformed theology, they by no means exhaust this system of doctrine. There is much more to Reformed theology than the five points. Reformed theology is not only systematic but also catholic, meaning the universal Christian Church that includes all believers in Jesus Christ across the world and across the ages. Thus, it shares much in common with other communions that are part of historic Christianity. The sixteenth-century Reformers were not interested in creating a new religion. They were interested, not in innovation, but in


renovation. They were reformers, not revolutionaries. Just as the Old Testament prophets did not repudiate the original covenant God had made with Israel, seeking instead to correct the departures from revealed faith, so the reformers called the church back to its apostolic and biblical roots. Though the Reformers rejected church tradition as a source of divine revelation, they did not thereby despise the entire scope of Christian tradition. John Calvin and Martin Luther frequently quoted the Church Fathers, especially Augustine. They believed the church had learned much in her history, and they wished to conserve what was true in that tradition. For example, the Reformers embraced the doctrines articulated and formulated by the great ecumenical councils of church history, including the doctrines of the Trinity and Christ‘s person and work formulated at the councils of Nicea in 325 and Chalcedon in 451. In the New Testament itself we see an example of conflict concerning tradition. Jesus was frequently locked in controversy with the Pharisees and scribes over the tradition of the rabbis since Jesus did not regard the rabbinic tradition as inviolate. On the contrary, he rebuked the Pharisees for elevating this human tradition to the level of divine authority, which compromised the latter. Because of this stern rebuke of human tradition, we tend to miss the positive aspects of tradition articulated in the New Testament. The term tradition here refers to that which is ―given over.‖ Paul speaks warmly of the gospel tradition in which he worked. It is the duty of every generation of Christians to pass on a tradition. Just as Israel was called to pass on to their children the traditions instituted by God, so the church is to pass on the apostolic tradition to each successive generation. In this process, however, there is always the danger of adding accretions to the apostolic tradition that are contrary to the original. That is why the Reformers insisted that their work of reformation was not complete. The church is called to be semper reformanda, ―always reforming.‖ Every Christian community creates its own subculture of customs and traditions. Such traditions are often extremely difficult to overcome or abandon. Yet it remains our task in every generation to


examine critically our own traditions to insure they are consistent with the apostolic tradition. Reformed Theology Is Evangelical The term evangelical came into prominence during the Reformation, when it was virtually a synonym for protestant. Historians have often suggested that the two chief causes of the Reformation were the issues of authority and justification. Frequently the issue of authority is called the Reformation‘s formal cause, while the issue of justification is called its material cause. By this is meant that the core issue was justification, while the backdrop to the controversy was authority. The twin slogans of sola Scriptura and sola fide became the battle cries of the Reformation. We will examine these two matters more fully later. We note them now in passing to say that the term evangelical was the broad term applied to many groups that, despite their separation into different denominations, agreed on these two basic issues over against the Roman Catholic church. When we declare that Reformed theology is evangelical, we mean that Reformed theology shares with other Protestant groups a commitment to the historic doctrines of sola Scriptura and sole fide. Since the sixteenth century the term evangelical has undergone significant development, so that today it is difficult to define. In the twentieth century both the concept of biblical authority and the nature and significance of justification by faith alone have been challenged from within the community of confessing evangelicals. It is no longer safe to assume that if a person calls himself an evangelical that he is committed to either sola Scriptura or sole fide. The Reformers called themselves evangelicals because they believed the doctrine of justification by faith alone is central and essential to the gospel. Since the biblical word for gospel is evangel, they used the term evangelical to assert their conviction that sola fide is the gospel. Of course the Roman Church of the sixteenth century disagreed with the Reformers and argued that sola fide is a serious distortion of the gospel. In light of the historic debate, it is not surprising to find adherents on both sides of the issue calling


themselves evangelicals today. (Of course it must also be acknowledged that that there are people within the Roman Catholic church who are evangelical in the Protestant sense, believing the Reformation view of the gospel and not the Roman Catholic view.) In any case, when I say that Reformed theology is evangelical, I use the term in its classic and historical sense. Reformed theology shares a common, evangelical body of doctrines with other Christian communions. God Is Sovereign I have never met a confessing Christian unwilling to affirm that God is sovereign. Sovereignty is a divine attribute confessed almost universally in historic Christianity. When we press the doctrine of divine sovereignty into other realms of theology, however, it is often weakened or destroyed altogether. I have often heard it said, ―God‘s sovereignty is limited by human freedom.‖ In this statement God‘s sovereignty is not absolute. It is bounded by a limit and that limit is human freedom. Reformed theology indeed insists that a real measure of freedom has been assigned to man by the Creator. But that freedom is not absolute and man is not autonomous. Our freedom is always and everywhere limited by God‘s sovereignty. God is free and we are free. But God is more free than we are. When our freedom bumps up against God‘s sovereignty, our freedom must yield. To say that God‘s sovereignty is limited by man‘s freedom is to make man sovereign. To be sure, the statement that God‘s sovereignty is limited by human freedom may simply express the idea that God does not in fact violate human freedom. But of course this is a different matter. If God never violates human freedom, it is not because of any limit on his sovereignty. It is because he sovereignly decrees not to. He has the authority and power to do it if he wants to. Any limit here is not a limit impose on God by us, but a limit God sovereignly imposes on himself. In Reformed theology, if God is not sovereign over the entire created order, then he is not sovereign at all. The term sovereignty too easily becomes a chimera. If God is not sovereign, then he is not God.


It belongs to God, as God, to be sovereign. How we understand his sovereignty has radical implications for our understanding of the doctrines of providence, election, justification, and a host of others. The same could be said regarding other attributes of God, such as his holiness, omniscience, and immutability, to name but a few. Sovereignty means ―rule‖; hence, to speak of God‘s sovereignty is to refer to God‘s rule. God‘s sovereignty is His supremacy. His kingship and His deity. His sovereignty declares Him to be God, the incomprehensible Trinity who is nevertheless knowable insofar as He chooses to reveal Himself to us. His sovereignty is exercised in all of His attributes, declaring Him to be perfect in all respects and possessor of all righteousness and holiness. He is the sovereignly gracious and omnipotent Jehovah, the Most High who does His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth (Dan. 4:35). He cannot be reduced to special or temporal categories for human understanding and analysis. The Reformed Christian believes that God is the Lord of life and Sovereign of the universe, whose will is the key to history. The Reformed Christian believes that God is free and independent of any force outside Himself to accomplish His Purposes; that He knows the end from the beginning; that He creates, sustains, governs, and directs all things; and that His marvelous design will be fully and perfectly manifest at the end of the ages. ―For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever‖ (Rom. 11:36). God‘s sovereignty is the marrow of doctrinal Reformed theology— provided we understand that this sovereignty is not arbitrary but is the sovereignty of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. B.B. Warfield wrote in his essay on predestination: ―The Biblical writers find their comfort continually in the assurance that it is the righteous, holy, faithful, loving God in whose hands rests the determination of the sequence of events and all their issues . . . The roots of the divine election are planted in His unsearchable love, by which it appears as the supreme act of grace.‖


In Christ, the warm and fatherly sovereignty of the God of the Scriptures is vastly different from the cold and capricious sovereignty of other ―gods‘‖ such as Allah. Fatherly sovereignty, like the incarnation itself, is in perfect harmony with all of God‘s attributes. The sovereign grace and love that went to Calvary has the whole world in its hands. God‘s fatherly sovereignty in Christ is the essence of who God is. God Is Incomprehensible We have seen that Reformed theology is systematic, catholic, and evangelical. In all of these respects it seeks to be God-centered in its doctrine. When Reformed theologians confess their faith, or teach courses in systematic theology, they usually begin the study of theology with either the doctrine of revelation or the doctrine of ―theology proper,‖ that is, the doctrine of the nature and character of God himself. The study of theology proper normally begins with the doctrine of God‘s incomprehensibility. This term may suggest to the reader that we believe God is fundamentally unknowable or unintelligible. Indeed this is not the case at all. We believe Christianity is first of all a revealed religion. We are committed to the idea that God has made himself known to us sufficiently for us to be redeemed and to experience fellowship with him. The doctrine of God‘s incomprehensibility calls attention to the distance between the transcendent Creator and his mortal creatures. One of the chief axioms taught by John Calvin was expressed by the Reformer in the Latin phrase Finitum non capax infinitum, ―the finite cannot grasp (or contain) the infinite.‖ Because God is infinite in his being and eternal, and we are finite and bound by both space and time, our knowledge of him is never comprehensive. We enjoy an apprehensive knowledge of God, but not a comprehensive knowledge. To know God comprehensively we would need to participate in is attribute of infinity. Infinity is a divine attribute rightly called ―incommunicable,‖ which means that God cannot make us gods ourselves. Even God is not capable of ―creating‖ a second god. The


second god could not really be a god because it would be by definition a creature. It would be dependent on and derived from the original God. Even in our glorified state in heaven, in which we will understand the things of God much more fully than we presently do, our knowledge of God will not be comprehensive. Our glorification does not mean deification. We will still be creatures; we will still be finite. Even in heaven the axiom applies: Finitum non capax infinitum. Though we lack a comprehensive knowledge of God, we are not reduced to skepticism or agnosticism. We do apprehend God. The early church faced a virulent heresy in the form of so-called Gnosticism. The Gnostics, who derived their name from the Greek word for knowledge (gnosis), believed we can have no proper knowledge of God from the normal means of rational apprehension of the senses. The only channel of this knowledge is a mystical intuition possessed only by a gifted elite of ―Gnostikoi,‖ or ―those in the know.‖ The Gnostics claimed a superior level or type of knowledge to that of the Apostles and sought to supplant their authority. The gnostic problem was exacerbated later with the rise of Neo-Platonism. Neo-Platonism was a conscious attempt to provide an alternative philosophy to the Christian faith, which had conquered traditional Greek philosophy. Indeed, Neo-Platonism was an attempt to restore Greek philosophy to preeminence. The most important neo-Platonic philosopher, Plotinus, described God as ―the One.‖ Plotinus insisted that nothing positive can ever be affirmed about God. He is unknowable. We can circle around certain ideas about God, but we can never land on any of them. Plotinus popularized the method of speaking about God that is called the ―way of negation‖ (via negationis), which defines something by saying what it is not. Christian theology rejects the skepticism of gnosticism and neoPlatonism. The way of negation, however, is sometimes employed in theology. For example, we speak of God‘s infinity and immutability. Both are negative terms. To say God is infinite is to say he is not finite. To say he immutable is to say he is not mutable (changing). In this respect we are pointing to dissimilarities between God and creatures.


If there were only dissimilarities between God and man, we could have no knowledge of God at all. It has become fashionable in our day to speak of God as being ―wholly other.‖ This phrase was coined to safeguard the transcendence of God against all forms of pantheism that seek to identify God with or contain him within the universe. If taken literally, however, the term ―wholly other‖ would be fatal to Christianity. If there is no sense in which God and man are similar, if there is no analogy of being between God and man, then there is no common basis for communication between us. Utterly dissimilar beings have no way of discourse between them. Scripture teaches that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This does not mean we are little gods. The image does not obscure the difference between God and man. It does assure, however, some point of likeness that makes communication possible, however limited it may be. Though the church employs the way of negation in her statements about God, her confession is not as in neo-Platonism, limited to this method. We also use the ―way of affirmation‖ (via affirmatos) and the ―way of eminence‖ (via eminentia). The way of affirmation makes positive assertions about God, such as ―He is holy, sovereign, and just.‖ The way of eminence describes God by elevating creaturely categories to the nth or ultimate degree. For example, we are familiar with the categories of power and knowledge. We exercise power but our power is limited. God‘s power over his creation is not limited; it is absolute. So we say God is allpowerful or omnipotent. Likewise, though our knowledge is limited, God‘s is not. We say that he is omniscient or all-knowing. Our language about God takes into account both the similarities between him and us and the dissimilarities. The incomprehensibility of God seeks to respect that sense in which God is known by us and the sense in which he remains unknown to us.


Martin Luther distinguished between the ―hidden God‖ (Deus absconditus) and the ―revealed God‖ (Deus revelatus): ―No faith in, no knowledge and no understanding of god, in so far as He is not revealed, are possible . . . What is above us is none of our business. For thoughts of this kind, which want to search out something more sublime, above, and outside that which has been revealed about God, are thoroughly diabolical.‖ John Calvin made a similar distinction between what we are able to know about God and what remains unknown to us. ―His essence, indeed, is incomprehensible, utterly transcending all human thought; but on each of his works his glory is engraven in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious, that none, however dull and illiterate, can plead ignorance as their excuse.‖ Calvin and Luther, with the doctrine of God‘s incomprehensibility, sought to be faithful to scriptural teaching by holding to both aspects of the knowledge of God, his hiddenness and his self-revelation: ―The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of his law‖ (Deut. 29:29). We have already seen that Reformed theology is God-centered, not man-centered; theocentric, not anthropocentric. At the same time we realize that our understanding of God has radical implications for our understanding of humanity, which he created in his image. The knowledge of man and the knowledge of God are interrelated. They are bound up with one another. In one sense, by becoming aware of ourselves we become aware of our own finitude and creatureliness. We realize that we are dependent creatures. These things point us to the Creator, though in our fallen nature we seek to avoid or ignore this signpost. In another sense, it is not until we understand who God is that we adequately understand who we are. In the very beginning of his classic work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin says:


Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes, and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the god in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. Later Calvin turns his attention to the other side of the coin: On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself . . . So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity . . . God Is Self-Sufficient Reformed theology places great emphasis on God‘s selfsufficiency. This characteristic is related to God‘s aseity, the idea that God and God alone is the ground of his own being. He derives his being from nothing outside of himself. He is self-existent. In popular language we frequently refer to God as the Supreme Being and to ourselves as human beings. The word being appears in both designations. We might conclude that the fundamental difference


between God and man is found in the adjectives, supreme and human. In one sense this is correct. But these adjectives point to the difference between the being of God and the being of man. God and God alone is pure being. He is who he is, the Yahweh of the Old Testament. Our being, by contrast, is derived, dependent, and contingent. We depend on the power of God‘s being for us to exist or to ―be‖ at all. In a word, we are creatures. By definition a creature owes its existence to another. God did not make himself. Even God cannot make himself because this would require that he was already there to do the job. The very point of aseity is that God is not made. He has no prior cause. Because he has aseity, self-existence, God is eternal. There never was a time when he was not. He has the very power of being within himself. He not only has being, he is Being. God Is Holy Reformed theology attaches great importance to the Old Testament and its relevance to the Christian life. One of the Old Testament‘s great values is its rich revelation of God‘s character. Since Reformed theology places so much emphasis on the doctrine of God, it is not at all surprising that it pays so much attention to the Old Testament. To be sure, all of Scripture reveals the divine character to us. Yet the Old Testament provides a vivid portrait of God‘s majesty and holiness. God‘s holiness refers to two distinct but related ideas. First the term holy calls attention to God‘s ―otherness,‖ the sense in which he is different from and higher than we are. It calls attention to his greatness and his transcendent glory. The second meaning of holiness has to do with God‘s purity. The perfection of his righteousness is displayed in his holiness. Running through the works of the great theologians—like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards—is the grand theme of the majesty of God. These


men stood in awe before his holiness. The posture of reverence and adoration is found throughout the pages of Scripture itself. Calvin writes: Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them . . . [we see that] men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. Frequent examples of this consternation occur both in the Book of Judges and the Prophetical Writings; so much so, that it was a common expression among the people of God, ―We shall die, for we have seen the Lord.‖ I know of no other brief statement that so captures the central importance to theology of the doctrine of God. It is said that the driving passion of Calvin‘s theology and work in the church was to free the church from all forms of idolatry. Calvin understood that idolatry is not limited to crass or primitive forms like those found in animistic or totemic religions. He realized that idolatry can become subtle and sophisticated. The very essence of idolatry involves the distortion of God‘s character. As Paul declared to the Romans, idolatry consists in exchanging the glory of God for a lie, elevating the creature and denigrating the Creator. Paul says: ―Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.‖ (Rom. 1:22-25). Calling the human heart an idol factory, Calvin stressed that the propensity for idolatry is deeply rooted in the heart of sinful humanity.


The exchange of the truth about God for a lie occurs in every distortion of God‘s character that creeps (or perhaps rushes) into our theology. It is a thing to be jealously guarded against. Calvin writes: Bright, however, as is the manifestation which God gives both of himself and his immortal kingdom in the mirror of his works, so great is our stupidity, so dull are we in regard to these bright manifestations, that we derive no benefit from them . . . but we are all alike in this, that we substitute monstrous fictions for the one living and true God . . . almost every man has had his own god. To the darkness of ignorance have been added presumption and wantonness, and hence there is scarcely an individual to be found without some idol or phantom as a substitute for Deity. Like water gushing forth from a large and copious spring, immense crowds of gods have issued from the human mind, every man giving himself full license, and devising some peculiar form of divinity, to meet his own views. Christians are called to preach, teach, and believe the whole counsel of God. Any distortion of the character of God poisons the rest of our theology. The ultimate form of idolatry is humanism, which regards man as the measure of all things. Man is the primary concern, the central focus, the dominant motif of all forms of humanism. Its influence is so strong and pervasive that it seeks to infiltrate Christian theology at every point. Only by a rigorous attention and devotion to the biblical doctrine of God will we be able to keep from tasting the poison of idolatry. Moreover, as discussed later in this book, we must know in our hearts that the holiness of God is the ultimate reality.


Chapter 11 Overview of the Bible: A Survey of the History of Salvation How does the Bible as a whole fit together? The events recorded in the Bible took place over a span of thousands of years and in several different cultural settings. What is their unifying thread? One unifying thread in the Bible is its divine authorship. Every book of the Bible is God‘s word. The events recorded in the Bible are there because God wanted them recorded, and he had them recorded with his people and their instruction in mind: ―For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope‖ (Rom. 15:4). God‘s Plan for History The Bible also makes it clear that God has a unified plan for all of history. His ultimate purpose, ―a plan for the fullness of time,‖ is ―to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth‖ (Eph. 1:10). God had this plan even from the beginning: ―remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‗My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose‘‖ (Isa. 46:9-10). ―When the fullness of time had come,‖ when the moment was appropriate in God‘s plan, ―God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law‖ (Gal. 4:4-5). The work of Christ on earth, and especially his crucifixion and resurrection, is the climax of history; it is the great turning point at which God actually accomplished the salvation toward which history had been moving throughout the OT. The present era looks back on Christ‘s completed work but also looks forward to the consummation of his work when Christ will come again and when there will appear ―new


heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells‖ (2 Pet. 3:13; see Rev. 21:1-22:5). The unity of God‘s plan makes it appropriate for him to include promises and predictions at earlier points in time, and then for the fulfillments of these to come at later points. Sometimes the promises take explicit form, as when God promises the coming of the Messiah, the great Savior whom Israel expected (Isa. 9:6-7). Sometimes the promises take symbolic form, as when God commanded animal sacrifices to be offered as a symbol for the forgiveness of sins (Leviticus 4). In themselves, the animal sacrifices were not able to remove sins permanently and atone for them permanently (Heb. 10: 118). They pointed forward to Christ, who is the final and complete sacrifice for sins. Christ in the Old Testament Since God‘s plan focuses on Christ and his glory (Eph. 1:10), it is natural that the promise of God and the symbols in the OT all point forward to him. ―For all the promises of God find their Yes in him [Christ]‖ (2 Cor. 1:20). When Christ appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, his teaching focused on leading them to understand how the OT pointed to him: ―And he said to them, ‗O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ would suffer these things and enter into his glory?‘ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself‖ (Luke 24:25-27). One could also look at Luke 24:44-48: ―Then he said to them, ‗These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.‘ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‗Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.‘‖


When the Bible says that ―he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures‖ (Luke 24:25), it cannot mean just a few scattered predictions about the Messiah. It means the OT as a whole, encompassing all three of the major divisions of the OT that the Jews traditionally recognized. ―The Law of Moses‖ includes Genesis to Deuteronomy. ―The Prophets‖ include both ―former prophets‖ (the historical books Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings) and the ―latter prophets‖ (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the 12 Minor prophets, Hosea-Malachi). ―The Psalms‖ is representative of the third grouping by the Jews, called the ―Writings.‖ At the heart of understanding all these OT books is the truth that they point forward to the suffering of Christ, his resurrection, and the subsequent spread of the gospel to ―all nations‖ (Luke 24:47). The OT as a whole, through its promises, its symbols, and its pictures of salvation, looks forward to the actual accomplishment of salvation that took place once-for-all in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Promises of God In what ways does the OT look forward to Christ? First, it directly points forward through promises of salvation and promises concerning God‘s commitment to his people. God gave some specific promises in the OT relating to the coming of Christ as the Messiah, the Savior in the line of David. Through the prophet Micah, God promises that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David (Mic. 5:2), a prophecy strikingly fulfilled in the NT (Matt. 2:1-12). But God often gives more general promises concerning a future great day of salvation, without spelling out all the details of how he will accomplish it (e.g., Isa. 25:6-9; 60:1-7). Sometimes he promises simply to be their God (see Gen. 17:7). One common refrain is that, ―I will be their God, and they shall be my people‖ (cf. Jer. 31:33; Hos. 2:23; Zech. 8:8; 13:9; Heb. 8:10). Variations on this broad theme may sometimes focus more on the people and what they will be, while at other times they focus on God and what he will do. God‘s promise to ―be their God‖ is really his comprehensive commitment to be with his people, to care for them, to discipline them, to protect them, to supply their needs, and to have a


personal relationship with them. If that commitment continues, it promises to result ultimately in the final salvation that God works out in Christ. The principle extends to all the promises in the OT. ―For all the promises of God find their Yes in him [Christ]‖ (2 Cor. 1:20). Sometimes God gives immediate, temporal blessing. These blessings are only a foretaste of the rich, eternal blessings that come through Christ: ―Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly Places‖ (Eph 1:3). Warnings and Curses God‘s relation to people includes not only blessings but also warnings, threatenings, and cursings. These are appropriate because of God‘s righteous reaction to sin. They anticipate and point forward to Christ in two distinct ways. First, Christ is the Lamb of God, the sinbearer (John 1:29; 1 Pet. 2:24). He was innocent of sin, but became sin for us and bore the curse of God on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). Every instance of the wrath of God against sin, and his punishments of sin, looks forward to the wrath that was poured out on Christ on the cross. Second, Christ at his second coming wars against sin and exterminates it. The second coming and the coming consummation are the time when the final judgment against sin is executed. All earlier judgments against sin anticipate the final judgment. Christ during his earthly life anticipated this final judgment when he cast out demons and when he denounced the sins of the religious leaders. Covenants The promises of God in the OT come in the context not only of God‘s commitment to his people but also of instruction about the people‘s commitment and obligations to God. Noah, Abraham, and others whom God meets and addresses are called on to respond not only with trust in God‘s promises but with lives that begin to bear fruit


from their fellowship with God. The relation of God to his people is summed up in various covenants that God makes with people. A covenant between two human beings is a binding commitment obliging them to deal faithfully with one another (as with Jacob and Laban in Gen. 31:44). In essence, a contract – consideration is given on both sides of the agreement. When God makes a covenant with man, God is the sovereign, so he specifies the obligations on both sides (the agreement is gracious, voluntary and unilateral on God‘s part since it is impossible to give God anything he does not already have – He is the creator of everything and literally in need of nothing). ―I will be their God‖ is the fundamental obligation on God‘s side, while ―they shall be my people‖ is the fundamental obligation on the human side. But then there are variations in the details. For example, when God first calls Abram he says, ―Go from your country and your kindred and your father‘s house to the land that I will show you‖ (Gen. 12:1). The commandment specifies an obligation on the part of Abram, an obligation on the human side. God also indicates what he will do on his part: ―And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing‖ (Gen. 12:2). God‘s commitment takes the form of promises, blessings, and curses. The promises and blessings point forward to Christ, who is the fulfillment of the promises and the source of final blessings. The curses point forward to Christ both in his bearing the curse and in his execution of judgment and curse against sin, especially at the second coming. The obligations on the human side of the covenants are also related to Christ. Christ is fully man as well as fully God. As a man, he stands with his people on the human side. He fulfilled the obligations of God‘s covenants through his perfect obedience (Heb. 5:8). He received the reward of obedience in his resurrection and ascension (see Phil. 2:9-10). The OT covenants on their human side thus point forward to his achievement. By dealing with the wrath of God against sin, Christ changed a situation of alienation from God to a situation of peace. He reconciled believers to God (2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 5:6-11). He brought personal


intimacy with God, and the privilege of being children of God (Rom. 8:14-17). This intimacy is what all the OT covenants anticipated. In Isaiah, God even declares that his servant, the Messiah, will be the covenant for the people (see Isa. 42:6; 49:8). Offspring It is worthwhile to focus on one specific element in the OT covenants, namely, the promise concerning offspring. In making a covenant with Abram, God calls on him to ―walk before me, and be blameless‖ (Gen. 17:1). That is a human obligation in the covenant. On the divine side, God promises that he will make Abram ―the father of a multitude of nations (Gen. 17:4), and he renames him Abraham (Gen. 17:5). The covenant with Abraham in fact extends beyond Abraham to his posterity: ―And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God‖ (Gen. 17:7-8). The promises made to Abraham are exceedingly important within the OT because they are the foundation for the nation of Israel. The history after Abraham shows that Abraham had a son, Isaac, in fulfillment of God‘s promise to Sarah. Isaac was the immediate result of God‘s promise of offspring who will inherit the land. Isaac in turn had a son, Jacob, and Jacob was the father of 12 sons who in turn multiplied into the 12 tribes of Israel. The nation of Israel became the next stage in the offspring that God promised. But how does this relate to Christ? Christ is the descendant of David and of Abraham, as the genealogy in Matthew indicates (Matt. 1:1). Christ is the offspring of Abraham. In fact, as pointed out by Paul, he is the offspring in a uniquely emphatic sense: ―Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‗And to offsprings,‘ referring to many, but referring to one, ‗And to your offspring,‘ who is Christ‖ (Gal. 3:16).


Abraham was told to ―walk before me, and be blameless‖ (Gen. 17:1). Abraham was basically a man of faith who trusted God (Gal. 3:9; Heb. 11:8-12, 17-19). But Abraham also had his failures and sins. Who will walk before God and be blameless in an ultimate way? Not Abraham. Not anyone else on earth either, except Christ himself (Heb. 4:15). All the other candidates for being ―offspring‖ of Abraham ultimately fail to be blameless. Thus the covenant with Abraham has an unbreakable tie to Christ. Christ is the ultimate offspring to whom the other offspring all point. One may go down the list of offspring: Isaac, Jacob, then the sons of Jacob. Among these sons, Judah is their leader who will have kingship (Gen. 49:10). David is the descendant of Abraham and Judah; Solomon is the descendant of David; and then comes Rehoboam and the others who descend from David and Solomon (Matt. 1:1-16). Christ is not only the descendant of all of them by legal right; he is also superior to all of them as the uniquely blameless offspring. Through Christ believers are united to him and thereby themselves become heirs to the promises of God made to Abraham and his offspring: ―There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ‘s, then you are Abraham‘s offspring, heirs according to promise‖ (Gal. 3:28-29). Christ as the Last Adam Christ is not only the offspring of Abraham, but – reaching back farther in time to an earlier promise of God – the offspring of the woman: ―I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel‖ (Gen. 3:15). The conquest over the serpent, and therefore the conquest of evil and the reversal of its effects, is to take place thorough the offspring of the woman. One can trace this offspring down from Eve thorough Seth and his godly descendants, through Noah, and down to Abraham, where God‘s promise takes the specific form of offspring for Abraham (see Luke3:23:38, which traces Jesus‘ genealogy all the way back to Adam). Thus Christ is not only the offspring of Abraham but the last Adam (1


Cor. 15:45-49). Like Adam, he represents all who belong to him. And he reverses the effects of Adam‘s fall. Shadows, Prefigures, and ―Types‖ The NT constantly talks about Christ and the salvation that he as brought. That is obvious. What is not so obvious is that the same is true of the OT, though it does this by way of anticipation. It gives us ―shadows‖ and ―types‖ of the things that were to come (se 1 Cor. 10:6; Heb. 8:5). For example, 1 Corinthians 10:6 indicates that the events the Israelites experienced in the wilderness were ―examples for us.‖ And 1 Corinthians 10:11 says, ―Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.‖ In 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11, the Greek word for ―example‖ is typos, from which derives the English word ―type‖ (cf. Rom. 5:14). A ―type,‖ in the language of theology, is a special example, symbol, or picture that God designed beforehand, and that he placed in history at an earlier point in time in order to point forward to a later, larger fulfillment. Animal sacrifices in the OT prefigure the final sacrifice of Christ. So these animal sacrifices were ―types‖ of Christ. The temple, as a dwelling place for God, prefigured Christ, who is the final ―dwelling place‖ of God, and through whom God comes to be with his people (Matt. 1:23; John 2:21). The OT priests were types of Christ, who is the final high priest (Heb. 7:11-8:7). Fulfillment takes place preeminently in Christ (Eph. 1:10; 2 Cor. 1:20). But in the NT those people who are ―in Christ,‖ who place their trust in him and experience fellowship with his person and his blessings, receive the benefits of what he has accomplished, and therefore one can also find anticipations or ―types‖ in the OT that point forward to the NT church, the people in the NT who belong to Christ. For example, the OT temple not only prefigured Christ, whose body is the temple (John 2:21), but prefigured the church, which is also called a temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), because it is indwelt by the Holy


Spirit. Some OT symbols also may point forward especially to the consummation of salvation that takes place in the new heaven and the new earth yet to come (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-22:5). Old Testament Jerusalem prefigured the New Jerusalem that will come ―down out of heaven from God‖ (Rev. 21:2). Christ the Mediator The Bible makes it clear that ever since the fall of Adam into sin, sin and its consequences have been the pervasive problem of the human race. It is a constant theme running through the Bible. Sin is rebellion against God, and it deserves death: ―the wages of sin is death‖ (Rom 6:23). God is holy, and no sinful human being, not even a great man like Moses, can stand in the presence of God without dying: ―you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live‖ (Ex. 33:20). Sinful man needs a mediator who will approach God on his behalf. Christ, who is both God and man, and who is innocent of sin, is the only one who can serve. ―There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all‖ (1 Tim. 2:5-6). Though there is only one mediator in an ultimate sense, in a subordinate way various people in the OT serve in some kind of mediatorial capacity. Moses is one of them. He went up to Mount Sinai to meet God while all the people waited at the bottom of the mountain (Exodus 19). When the people of Israel were terrified at hearing God‘s audible voice from the mountain, they asked for Moses to bring them God‘s words from then on (Ex. 20:18-21). God approved of the arrangement involving Moses bringing his words to the people (Deut: 5:28-33). But if there is only one mediator, as 1 Timothy 2:5 says, how could Moses possible serve in that way? Moses was not the ultimate mediator, but he prefigured Christ‘s mediation. Because Moses was sinful, he could not possibly have survived the presence of God without forgiveness, that is, without having a sinless mediator on his own behalf. God welcomed Moses into his presence only because, according to the plan of God, Christ was to come and make atonement for Moses.


The benefits of Christ‘s work were reckoned beforehand for Moses‘ benefit. And so it must have been for all the OT saints. How could they have been saved otherwise? God is perfectly holy, and they all needed perfection. Perfection was graciously reckoned to them because of Christ, who was to come. That means that there is only one way of salvation, throughout the OT as well as in the NT. Only Christ can save us. ―And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved‖ (Acts 4:12). The instances of salvation in the OT all depend on Christ. And in the OT, salvation frequently comes through a mediator, a person or institution that stands between God and man. All the small instances of mediation in the OT prefigure Christ. How else could it be, since there is only one mediator and one way of salvation? So an understanding of the unity of the Bible increases when one pays attention to instances where God brings salvation, and instances where a mediator stands between God and Man. These instances include not only cases where God brings spiritual salvation in the form of personal fellowship, spiritual intimacy, and the promise of eternal life with God. They also include instances of temporal, eternal deliverance – ―salvation‖ in a physical sense, which prefigures salvation in a spiritual sense. And indeed, salvation is not merely spiritual. Christians look forward to the resurrection of the body and to ―new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells‖ (2 Pet. 3:13). Personal salvation starts with renewal of the heart, but in the end it will be comprehensive and cosmic in scope. The OT, when it pays attention to physical land and physical prosperity and physical health, anticipates the physicality of the new believer‘s prosperity in the new heavens and the new earth. Instances of mediators in the OT include prophets, kings, and priests. Prophets bring the word of God from God to the people. Kings, when they submit to God, bring God‘s rule to bear on the people. Priests represent the people in coming before God‘s presence. Christ is the final prophet, king, and priest who fulfills all three functions in a final way (Heb. 1:1-3). One can also look at wise men,


who bring God‘s wisdom to others; warriors, who bring God‘s deliverance from enemies; and singers, who bring praise to God on behalf of the people and speak of the character of God to the people. Mediation occurs not only through human figures, but through institutions. Covenants play a mediatorial role in bringing God‘s word to the people. The temple brings God‘s presence to the people. The animal sacrifices bring God‘s forgiveness to the people. In reading the Bible one should look for ways in which God brings his word and his presence to people through means that he establishes. All these means perform a kind of mediatorial role, and because there is only one mediator, it is clear that they all point to Christ.


Chapter 12 The Reformation was a call for authentic Christianity, an attempt to escape the mediaeval corruption of the faith through renewal and reform. Its teaching, which swirled around a fivefold repetition of the word sola (“alone�) was a radical message for that day (and should be for ours) because it called for a commitment to an entirely Godcentered view of faith and life. --John D. Hannah

Reformation Essentials - Five Pillars of the Reformation

In chapter 10 I noted that in response to the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestants coined five slogans or battle cries: Scripture alone (sola Scriptura), grace alone (sola gratia), faith alone (sola fide), Christ alone (solus Christus), and the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). The foundations of Reformed doctrine can be summarized in these five watchwords of the Reformation. Let us consider the meaning and implications of each of these slogans.


Sola Scriptura: Our Only Foundation ―Unless I am convinced by Sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I will not recant. My conscience is held captive by the Word of God and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.‖ These immortal words were uttered by Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms. He was on trial for his life before the authorities of both church and state, charged with serious heresy. When commanded to recant his doctrine of justification by faith, he insisted that his doctrine was based on the Bible. Historians have frequently explained the Protestant Reformation by describing its material cause and its formal cause. Its material cause was the dispute over the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide); its formal cause, the dispute over biblical authority (sola Scriptura). Thus, the principle of sola Scriptura lurked in the background throughout the debate over justification. Luther‘s refusal to recant at Worms brought it into the foreground. From that point on, sola Scriptura became a battle cry for Protestants. The term sola Scriptura simply means ―by Scripture alone.‖ This slogan declared the idea that only the Bible has the authority to bind the consciences of believers. Protestants did recognize other forms of authority, such as church offices, civil magistrates, and church creeds and confessions. But they saw these authorities as being subordinate to the authority of God. None of these lesser authorities was deemed absolute, because all of them were capable of error. God alone is infallible. Fallible authorities cannot bind the conscience absolutely; that right is reserved to God and his Word alone. The Reformers contended that all things must be tested ―by Scripture alone.‖ This explains why the Reformers accepted some parts of Roman Catholic teaching and not others. They believed Scripture is to rule in the church, for it is the Word of God and the voice of God (verbum Dei). Therefore, its authority is absolute, not derivative, they said. John Calvin said that Scripture is as authoritative as if God Himself ―had been giving utterance.‖ A Christian should rely


on and be governed by its promises, and the church should be wholly subject to its authority. In fact, all other kinds of authority—papal, creedal, and civil—must be subordinate to Scripture, whether they expressly acknowledge it or not. The Reformers agreed that there are two kinds of divine revelation: general and special. General revelation, sometimes called natural revelation, refers to God‘s revelation of himself in nature. The Apostle Paul declares this in Romans: ―For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.‖ (Rom. 1:18-20). As we have seen, this revelation is called ―general‖ because of both its audience and its content. All people receive God‘s revelation in nature; not all have read Scripture (special revelation) or been exposed to its teaching. General revelation does not reveal the history of redemption or the person and work of Christ; special revelation does. Though the Reformers distinguished between general and special revelation, they insisted there is only one written source of special revelation, the Bible. This is the sola of sola Scriptura. The chief reason for the word alone is the conviction that the Bible is inspired by God, while church creeds and pronouncements are the works of men. These lesser works may be accurate and brilliantly conceived, capturing the best insights of learned scholars; but they are not the inspired Word of God. The Inspiration of Scripture The authority of Scripture is rooted and grounded in the fact that Scripture was originally given under divine inspiration. This claim agrees with the Bible‘s own claim to authority. ―All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may


be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work‖ (Tim. 3:1617). Paul‘s declaration of Scripture‘s inspiration refers to its origin. He uses the Greek word theopneust, which means ―God-breathed‖. Though the word is usually translated ―inspired,‖ which means ―breathe in,‖ technically theopneust refers to a breathing out, which might more accurately be translated ―expired.‖ Paul is saying that Scripture is ―expired‖ or ―breathed out‖ by God. This is not a mere quibble. It is obvious that for inspiration to take place there must first be expiration. A breathing out must precede a breathing in. The point is that the work of divine inspiration is accomplished by a divine expiration. Since Paul says that Scripture is breathed out by God, Scripture‘s origin or source must be God himself. When Calvin and the others speak of Scripture‘s inspiration, they refer to the way in which God enabled the human authors of Scripture to function, so that they wrote every word under divine superintendence. The doctrine of inspiration declares that God enabled the human writers of Scripture to be agents of divine revelation, so that what they wrote was not only their writing but in a higher sense the very Word of God. The origin of Scripture‘s content is found ultimately in God. Much debate has raged concerning the exact mode or method of this divine inspiration. Some have contended for a mechanical inspiration or dictation, reducing the human authors to robotic machines or passive stenographers who merely record the words dictated to them by God. But the Scriptures themselves make no such claim. The mode or precise manner of divine inspiration is not spelled out. The crucial point of the biblical claim to authority is that God is the source who breathes out his word. It is clear from a study of the Bible itself that the authors‘ individual styles remain intact. The inspiration of the Bible refers then to the divine superintendence of Scripture, preserving it from the intrusion of human error. It refers to God‘s preserving His Word through the words of human authors.


The Infallibility of Scripture The Reformers taught that the Bible‘s infallibility is exhaustive, for every word of every sentence is the breath of the living God. They honored 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says, ―All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.‖ Since God is both omniscient and morally perfect, he is incapable of telling a lie or making an error. When we say the Bible is infallible in its origin, we are merely ascribing its origin to a God who is infallible. This is not to say that the biblical writers were intrinsically or in themselves infallible. They were human beings who, like other humans, proved the Latin axiom, Errare humanum est. ―To err is human.‖ It is precisely because humans are given to error that, for the Bible to be the Word of God, its human authors required assistance in their task. At issue in our day is the question of Scripture‘s inspiration. On this point some theologians have tried to eat their cake and have it too. They affirm the Bible‘s inspiration while at the same time denying its infallibility. They argue that the Bible, in spite of its divine inspiration, still errs. The idea of divinely inspired error is one to choke on. We shrink in horror at the notion that God inspires error. To inspire error would require either that God is not omniscient or that he is evil. Perhaps what is in view in the idea of inspired error is that the inspiration, though proceeding from a good and omniscient God, is simply ineffectual to the task at hand. That is, it fails to accomplish its intended purpose. In this case another attribute of God, his omnipotence, is negotiated away. Perhaps God is simply unable to superintend the writing of Scripture with sufficient power to overcome the human authors‘ propensity for error. Surely it would make more sense to deny inspiration altogether than to conjoin inspiration with error. To be sure, most critics of the Bible‘s infallibility take their axes to the root of the tree and reject


inspiration altogether. This seems a more honest and logical approach. It avoids the impiety of denying foundational attributes to God himself. Let us examine briefly a formula that has had some currency in our day: ―The Bible is the Word of God, which errs.‖ Now let us expunge some of these words. Remove ―The Bible is,‖ so that the formula reads: ―The Word of God, which errs.‖ Now erase ―The Word of‖ and ―which.‖ The result is ―God errs.‖ To say the Bible is the Word of God that errs is clearly to indulge in impious doublespeak. If it is the Word of God, it does not err. If it errs, it is not the Word of God. Surely we can have a word about God that errs, but we cannot have a word from God that errs. That the Scripture has its origin in God is claimed repeatedly by Scripture. One example already noted is found in Paul‘s Epistle to the Romans. Paul identifies himself as ―a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God‖ (Rom. 1:1). In the phrase ―the gospel of God,‖ the word of is a genitive indicating possession. Paul is speaking not merely of a gospel that is about God, but of a gospel belonging to God. It is God‘s possession and it comes from him. In a word, Paul is declaring that the gospel he preaches is not from men or of human invention; it is given by divine revelation. The whole controversy over the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible is fundamentally a controversy about supernatural revelation. Reformed theology is committed to Christianity as a revealed faith, a faith that rests, not on human insight, but on information that comes to us from God himself. The Inerrancy of Scripture ―I have learned to hold only the Holy Scripture inerrant,‖ Martin Luther said, quoting Augustine‘s letter to Jerome. Thus, we see that, in addition to affirming the Bible‘s infallibility, Reformed theology also describes the Bible as inerrant. Infallibility means that something cannot err, while inerrancy means that it does not err. Infallibility describes ability or potential. It describes something that cannot happen. Inerrancy describes actuality.


For example, I could score 100% on a spelling test. In this limited experience I was ―inerrant‖; I made no mistakes on the test. This would not warrant the conclusion that I am therefore infallible. Errant human beings do not always err. They sometimes, indeed often do, err because they are not infallible. An infallible person would never err simply because infallibility as such precludes the very possibility of error. In our day some scholars have asserted that the Bible is infallible but not inerrant. This creates no small amount of confusion. As we have seen, infallible is the stronger of the two words. Why then have these scholars preferred the word infallible? The answer is probably located somewhere in the emotive realm. The term inerrancy is frowned on in certain academic circles. It is loaded with pejorative baggage. The term is often associated with unsophisticated and unscholarly types of fundamentalism. On the other hand, the term infallibility has a history of academic respectability, particularly in Roman Catholic scholarship. People may reject the Roman Catholic view of infallibility, but they do not identify it with backwoods, primitive theology. Jesuits, for example, do not suffer from a reputation of unsophisticated scholarship. To escape guilt by association with unintellectual circles, some have retreated from the term inerrancy and taken refuge in the term infallibility. If in the process infallibility is redefined to mean something less than inerrancy, however, then the shift in nomenclature is a dishonest subterfuge. Though both inerrancy and infallibility have been integral to historic Reformed theology, the modern controversy over the Bible‘s trustworthiness has led others to argue that the concept of inerrancy was not advocated by the magisterial Reformers, but instead was originated by scholastic or rationalistic theologians of the seventeenth century. Though it may be accurate to say that the term inerrancy came into vogue later, it is by no means accurate to assert that the concept is absent from the works of sixteenth-century Reformers. For example, Martin Luther made many statements similar to the following: ―The Holy Spirit Himself and God, the Creator of all things, is the Author of this book‖; ―Scripture, although also written of men, is not of men or from men, but from God‖; ―The Word must stand, for God 242

cannot lie; and heaven and earth must go to ruins before the most insignificant letter or tittle of His Word remains unfulfilled.‖ It is clear that the concept of inerrancy was not a late invention. It is attested to in antiquity, not only in men such as St. Augustine, but in Irenaeus as well. Luther cites Augustine‘s view with manifest approval. The same approbation is found profusely in John Calvin‘s writings. Clearly inerrancy and infallibility do not extend to copies or translations of Scripture. Reformed theology restricts inerrancy to the original manuscripts of the Bible, or the autographa. The autographa, the initial works of the writers of Scripture, are not directly available to us today. For this reason many scoff at the doctrine of inerrancy, saying it is a moot point since it cannot be verified or falsified without access to the original manuscripts. This criticism misses the point altogether. We carry no brief for the inspiration of copyists or translators. The original revelation is the chief concern of the doctrine of inerrancy. Though we do not possess the autographs themselves, we can reconstruct them with remarkable accuracy. The science of textual criticism demonstrates that the existing text is remarkably pure and exceedingly reliable. For example, suppose the normative yardstick housed at the National Bureau of Standards were to perish in a fire. Would we no longer be able to determine the distance of three feet with accuracy? With the multitude of existing copies, we could reconstruct with almost perfect accuracy the original yardstick. To restrict inerrancy to the original documents is to call attention to the source of biblical revelation: the agents who were inspired by God to receive his revelation and record it. Reformed theology carries no brief for the infallibility of translations. We who read, interpret, or translate the Bible are fallible. The Roman Catholic church adds another element of infallibility by claiming it for the church‘s interpretation of Scripture, especially when the pope speaks ex cathedra (―from the chair‖ of St. Peter). Though


this adds a second tier of infallibility, the individual Roman Catholic is still left to interpret the infallible interpretation of the infallible Bible fallibly. Whereas Protestants are faced with a fallible interpretation of the church‘s fallible interpretation of the infallible Bible. Catholics assume a double level of infallibility. What does the Bible‘s infallibility mean for the average Christian seeking to be guided by scripture? If the final stage of receiving Scripture rests in our fallible understanding, why is the infallibility of the original documents so important? This a practical question that bears heavily on the Christian life. Although discussed in more detail in the following section (The Interpretation of Scripture), for now, let us suppose that two people read a portion of Scripture and cannot agree on its meaning. Obviously one or both of them misunderstand the text. The debate between them is a debate between fallible people. Suppose, however, that the text is clear (which is usually the case) and that neither person disputes its meaning. If one of them is convinced that the text is God‘s infallible revelation, then the question of whether he should submit to it is answered. If the other person is persuaded that the text itself (in its original transmission) is fallible, then he is under no moral obligation to be bound by it. Finally, sola Scriptura also meant that the Word of God was sufficient. Although Rome believed it was infallible, the official theology was shaped more by the insights of Plato and Aristotle than by Scripture. Similarly, today, psychology in contemporary preaching threatens to reshape the understanding of the self, as sin becomes "addiction"; the Fall as an historical event is replaced with one's "victim" status; salvation is increasingly communicated as mental health, peace of mind, and self-esteem; and my personal happiness and self-fulfillment are center-stage rather than God's holiness and mercy, justice and love, glory and compassion. Do we really believe that the Bible defines the human problem and its solution? Or, when we really want facts, do we turn somewhere


else, to a modern secular authority who will really carry weight in the sermon? (Of course, the Bible will be cited to bolster the argument.) Political ideology, sociology, marketing, and other secular "authorities" must never be allowed priority in answering questions the Bible addresses. That is, in part, what the affirmation sola Scriptura means, and ―evangelicals‖ today seem as confused on this point as was the medieval church. The Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura, then, affirms that the Bible is the sole written authority for the faith and life of God‘s people. Indeed, the view of Scripture as ―alone and entire‖ (sola Scriptura and tota Sciptura) is uniquely Reformed and that has led Reformed believers to stress that Scripture alone can bind the consciences of believers. We respect and submit to lesser ecclesiastical authority, but we are not bound by it absolutely as we are by biblical authority. This is also the basis for the Reformation principle of semper reformanda, which indicates that reformation of the church is an ongoing process. We are always called to seek more and more to bring our faith and practice into conformity to the Word of God. The Interpretation of Scripture One great legacy of the Reformation is the principle of private interpretation. The Reformation effectively put the Bible into the hands of the laity. This was done at a great price, as some who translated the Bible into the vernacular paid for it with their lives. In part, this has led many critics of the Reformation to portray it as an invitation to individualism, as people discover for themselves from the Bible what they will and will not believe. "Never mind the church. Away with creeds and the church's teaching office! We have the Bible and that's enough." But this was not the Reformers' doctrine of sola Scriptura--only Scripture. Luther said of individualistic approaches to the Bible, "That would mean that each man would go to hell in his own way." The right of private interpretation means that every Christian has the right to read and interpret the Bible for himself or herself. This


does not give and individual the right to misinterpret or distort the Bible. The Bible is not a waxed nose to be twisted and shaped to fit one‘s fancy. With the right of private interpretation comes the responsibility of handling the Bible carefully and accurately. Nor does this right suggest that teachers, commentaries, and so forth are unnecessary or unhelpful. God has not gifted teachers for his church in vain. The Bible is not to be interpreted arbitrarily. Fundamental rules of interpretation must be followed to avoid subjectivistic or fanciful interpretation, rules developed by the science of hermeneutics. The term hermeneutics is etymologically related to Hermes, a Greek god. Hermes was the messenger of the gods, corresponding to the Roman god Mercury. In mythology Mercury is often depicted with wings on his shoes to facilitate the delivery of messages with speed. Hermeneutics prescribes the process by which we seek to understand a message. The Reformation established crucial rules of hermeneutics for interpreting the Bible. Perhaps the most crucial or central rule is the analogy of faith. This is the rule that Scripture is to interpret itself (Sacra Scriptura sui interpres). We are to interpret Scripture by Scripture. If the Bible is the Word of God, then it is coherent and consistent with itself. God is not the author of confusion. He does not contradict himself. We are not, therefore, to set one part of Scripture against another. What is unclear or obscure in one place may be clarified in another. We are to interpret the obscure in light of the clear; the implicit in light of the explicit, and narrative in light of the didactic. At a technical level the science of hermeneutics becomes quite complex. The biblical scholar must learn to recognize different forms of literature within the Scripture (genre analysis). For example, some parts of the Bible are in the form of historical narrative, while others are in the form of poetry. The interpretation of poetry differs from the interpretation of narrative. The Bible uses metaphor, simile, proverb, parable, hyperbole, parallelism, and many other literary devices that must be recognized in any serious work of interpretation.


One of the Reformation‘s chief accomplishments is the principle of the literal interpretation of Scripture. This concept has suffered from serious misunderstanding, having often been equated with a naĂŻve or wooden literalism. The actual principle, called the sensus literalis, is that the Bible must be interpreted according to the manner in which it is written. Literal refers to the literary form of Scripture. Luther comments on this: Neither a conclusion nor a figure of speech should be admitted in any place of Scripture unless evident contextual circumstances . . . require it. On the contrary, we must everywhere adhere to the simple, pure, and natural meaning of the words. This accords with the rules of grammar and the usage of speech (usus loquendi) which God has given to men. For if everyone is allowed to invent conclusions and figures of speech according to his own whim . . . nothing could to a certainty be determined or proved concerning any one article of faith that men could not find fault with by means of some figure of speech. Rather we must avoid as the most deadly poison all figurative language which Scripture itself does not force us to find in a passage. The principle of literal interpretation was intended to put an end to a method that had become popular in the Middle Ages, the quadriga. This was a method of interpretation by which four distinct meanings were sought for each biblical text: literal, moral, allegorical, and analogical. This led to excessive allegorization and obfuscation of the text. By contrast, sensus literalis was designed to seek the plain sense of Scripture and to focus on one meaning. Though a text may have a multitude of applications, it has only one correct meaning. The principle of sensus literalis is closely related to the gramatico-historical method of interpretation. This method focuses on the historical setting in which Scripture was written and pays close attention to the grammatical structure of the biblical text. In a broad sense this method means simply that the Bible is to be interpreted like


any other book. Its revelatory nature does not make it unlike any other book in that regard. It must still be read like any other book. In the Bible verbs are verbs and nouns are nouns. The normal structure of literature applies. Again Luther comments: The Holy Spirit is the plainest Writer and Speaker in heaven and on earth. Therefore His words can have no more than one, and that the most obvious, sense. This we call the literal or natural sense. But that the things meant by the plain sense of His plain Word may also mean something further and different, and thus one thing signifies another, is more than a question of words and languages. For this is true of all things outside Scripture, since all God‘s works and creatures are living signs and words of God, as St. Augustine and all the teachers declare. But we should not on this account say that Scripture or God‘s Word has more than one meaning. Summary Scripture alone. When the Reformers used the words sola Scriptura they were expressing their concern for the Bible‘s authority, and what they meant is that the Bible alone is our ultimate authority—not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only. Other sources of authority may have an important role to play. Some are even established by God—such as the authority of church elders, the authority of the state, or the authority of parents over children. But Scripture alone is truly ultimate. Therefore, if any of these other authorities depart from Bible teaching, they are to be judged by the Bible and rejected.


Sola Fide: Our Only Means The Reformation‘s emphasis on faith alone was the result of Luther‘s tortured struggles to resolve the issue of how a fallen sinner may be saved. ―My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and had no confidence that my character would satisfy Him. Night and day I pondered,‖ Luther said. The breakthrough came when Luther was given insight into Romans 1:17: ―For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.‖ Luther later wrote: ―Then I grasped that the justice of God is the righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy, He justifies us through faith. Immediately I felt myself to have gone through the open door into paradise.‖ Luther finally understood that faith is the means by which justification comes to the sinner. The gospel makes faith the only way by which a sinner receives God‘s grace. Luther went so far as to say: ―This doctrine is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour‖. The Reformers explained that Scripture‘s references to justification by faith alone are never speaking of justification on account of faith but on account of Christ and His blood sacrifice, the righteousness of which is graciously imputed to undeserving sinners. As Calvin wrote, ―Justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.‖ In other words, a double imputation occurs: my sins are imputed to the sinless Christ who pays the price of God‘s just punishment on my behalf, and, simultaneously, Christ‘s perfect righteousness is imputed to me. Thus, the key to understanding the most important idea of Christianity, justification by faith alone, the material cause of the Reformation, is the concept of imputation. According to Scripture, God declares a person righteous before that person actually begins to become righteous. Therefore, the


declaration is not in response to any spiritual or moral advances within the individual, but is an imputation of the perfect righteousness that God immediately requires of everyone who is united to Christ by faith alone. When a person trusts Christ, that very moment he or she is clothed in his perfect holiness, so that even though the believer is still sinful, he or she is judged by God as blameless. How different this Reformed concept of faith was from that taught by the Roman Catholic Church. Rome blended justification and sanctification by teaching that justification was not achieved by God‘s declaring a sinner righteous, but by God‘s making him righteous. Christ‘s righteousness must thus be buttressed by the sinner‘s own righteousness in justification. There are degrees of justification the Roman church taught, and the believer is dependent on implicit faith in the church‘s teaching to receive God‘s grace through the sacraments. The sinner must cooperate with God‘s grace by doing good works to truly achieve justification. The battle line was drawn: faith alone versus faith plus works. Committed To Faith Alone The doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide) is the central affirmation of historic evangelicalism. It is a doctrine shared by Reformed theology with many other Christian denominations. Though this doctrine is not unique to Reformed theology, there would be no Reformed theology without it. During the Reformation Martin Luther said this is ―the article with and by which the church stands, without which it falls‖. If Luther was correct, then his statement applies not only to the Lutheran church, but to any church. Elsewhere Luther declared: ―The article of justification is the master and prince, the lord, the ruler, and the judge over all kinds of doctrines; it preserves and governs all church doctrine and raises up our consciences before God. Without this article the world is under death and darkness‖. The doctrine of justification deals with what may be the deepest existential problem a human being can ever face: How can a sinner, an unjust person, ever withstand the judgment of a holy and just God? As


the psalmist put it, ―If You, Lord, should mark iniquities . . . who could stand?‖ (Ps. 130:3). The question is obviously rhetorical. No one of us could possibly stand because none of us is righteous. For an unjust person to stand in the presence of a just God, that person must first be justified. The Reformed doctrine of justification is often called forensic justification. The term forensic is frequently heard in criminal trials. We hear of forensic evidence and forensic medicine. The word forensic refers to legal declarations. Forensic justification means we are declared righteous by God in a legal sense. The ground of this legal declaration is the imputation of Christ‘s righteousness to our account. Luther captured the idea of forensic justification with his famous Latin phrase, simul iustus et peccator, ―At the same time [simultaneously], just and sinner.‖ Luther did not intend to affirm a contradiction. The two assertions, just and sinner, refer to the same person at the same time, but not in the same relationship. The person considered in himself remains a sinner, yet at the same time by virtue of the imputation of Christ‘s righteousness, the person is considered just in the sight of God. This means, as Calvin notes, that we are treated by God ―as if‖ we were righteous. Justification by faith alone‖ is merely shorthand for ―justification by the righteousness of Christ alone.‖ His merit, and only his merit, is sufficient to satisfy the demands of God‘s justice. It is precisely this merit that is given to us by faith. Christ is our righteousness. God clothes his filthy creatures with the coat of Christ‘s righteousness. This is the very heart of the gospel, expressed not only in the New Testament but in the Old as well. We must possess righteousness in order to be justified. The question is, whose righteousness justifies us? Are we justified by a righteousness that is inherent in us, or by somebody else‘s righteousness that is imputed to us? Luther and the Reformers insisted that we are justified by a righteousness that is not in us but outside of us.


This ―alien righteousness‖, as Luther called it, is the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness does not adhere in us, it is earned for us. The Reformers agreed, of course, that Christ dwells in the Christian and so does the Holy Spirit. The ground of our justification is not this indwelling, however, but the merit of Christ wrought in himself, not in us. It is the legal application of his righteousness to us by which we are declared just. This is no legal fiction because real righteousness is really imputed. There is nothing fictional about the righteousness of Christ. Imputation is at the heart of the Christian faith. If imputation is a fiction, then the atonement is fiction. Christ‘s cross was real, and the punishment he received in our behalf was likewise real. He was the Lamb of God who bore our sins. How did he do that? As was symbolized in the Old Testament, our sins are transferred to Christ by imputation, not by infusion (as in Roman Catholicism). God counted Christ‘s suffering worthy satisfaction for our guilt. Our salvation rests not only in Christ‘s atoning death, but also in his life of perfect, active obedience. If to secure our redemption Christ only needed to make an atonement for us, he could have come down from heaven and gone directly to the cross. But he also had to fulfill all righteousness by submitting at every point to the law of God. By his sinless life he achieved positive merit, which merit is imputed to all who put their faith in him. Christ not only died for us, he lived for us as well. Thus the term, ―double imputation.‖ The Reformation dispute between justification by the infusion of Christ‘s righteousness and the imputation of his righteousness was no minor one, then or now. It makes all the difference in the world whether the ground of my justification rests within me or is accomplished for me. Christ fulfilled the law for me and gained the merit necessary for my justification. This is the ground not only of my justification, but also of my assurance of salvation. If I must wait until I cooperate with the righteousness of Christ infused within me, to the degree that I become inherently righteous, I despair of ever attaining salvation. This is not gospel or ―good news‖; it is bad news.


The apostolic doctrine of sola Fide, proclaimed to Abraham and his offspring, has sadly fallen on hard times. Not only do most Christians today not hear about the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone, many cannot even define it. Although justification is the doctrine by which, according to the evangelical reformers "the church stands or falls," it has been challenged again in our day as it has in the past. Justification by Death? As already mentioned, the Protestant Reformation was not a tempest in a teapot. The issue that divided the Roman Catholics from the Protestant Reformers was not a secondary or tertiary doctrine. The dispute focused on the essence of the gospel. Some have argued that sola fide (faith alone) is central to the Christian faith but not essential. I contend, however, that it is essential to the gospel in that, without sola fide, we do not have the gospel. And without the gospel, we have no salvation. One would think after so many centuries of dissemination of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, particularly in Protestant countries, that the doctrine would be firmly entrenched in the minds of Christian people. But such is not the case. Indeed, those who hold to justification by faith alone are clearly in a minority. More popular views are the doctrines of justification by works and justification by a combination of faith and works. These really reflect not so much Christian views of the matter as a Muslim one. In the Muslim view, a person‘s eternal destiny is determined by the scales of justice. If one‘s good works outweigh the bad deeds, then the person goes to heaven. If the bad deeds outweigh the good deeds, the person goes to hell. This view is held by many professing Christians, who still entertain the idea that they can gain entrance into heaven and into the kingdom of God by living a good life. As long as they refrain from egregious sins such as murder, grand theft, or adultery, they think they have kept their moral slates clean enough to get them past the gates of judgment.


As fallacious as that view is, there is a view even more insidious in its subtlety and thus more pervasive — the cultural view of justification that is widely held in the West. That doctrine is the doctrine of justification by death. It is an implicit universalism that assumes everyone goes to heaven when he or she dies. Perhaps the most rank evildoers, such as Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin, may not make it, but the average person certainly has nothing to worry about. Nothing transforms sinners into saints more miraculously or more frequently than death. Go to the funeral of the most wicked sinner you know and you will hear a eulogy that guarantees that person‘s entrance into the kingdom of God. What drives this pervasive belief in justification by death? I think there are several factors. One is a misinformed idea of the character of God. We are told ad nauseum that God loves everyone unconditionally. The necessary inference that people draw from that is simple: If God loves me unconditionally, then there are no conditions that I must meet in order to enter into heavenly bliss. In a sense, God, if He is loving, is obligated to give me eternal life. The second driving factor is a widespread denial of hell. The whole concept of hell is so ghastly and difficult even to comprehend that we have a visceral response of denial to it. We cannot imagine any of our loved ones ever being assigned to such a dreadful place. We also find in our culture a rejection of the whole idea of a final judgment. Never mind that our Lord taught again and again that each one of us will stand before God and will be held accountable for his or her sins — to the extent that even every idle word we speak will be brought into judgment. No one escapes the judgment of God. We all must stand before that final tribunal and be judged--not on a curve, not according to how we stack up against other people in this world, but how we stand according to God‘s standard of righteousness, a standard that none of us will ever reach.


The Bible speaks of two ways in which people die. There are those who die in faith and, because of that faith, are linked to the atoning work of Christ and receive the benefits of His atoning work, including entrance into His kingdom. The other way that the Bible speaks of dying is dying in sin. Those who die in sin are those who die in a state of impenitence. Such people have never bowed the knee to the living God and cried out from their helplessness for His grace. Instead of clinging to the cross and coming with nothing in our hands, it is our nature as fallen creatures to try to bring something in our hands that will pay the price that needs to be paid for our redemption. This is the height or, perhaps, the nadir of folly. The only thing we can be sure of is that death will give us judgment. The question is, do we have that faith by which we are linked to the righteousness of Christ and all the benefits of His ministry on our behalf, or will we stand alone at that judgment seat of Christ? The Influence of Pelagianism In a direct challenge to the teachings of the early Christian church in general and St. Augustine in particular, A fourth century British monk named Pelagius popularized the idea that God elects people to heaven on the basis of personal righteousness. In essence, Pelagianism teaches that God elects those who are good. In Pelagianism, Adam's sin is not imputed to us, nor is Christ's righteousness. Adam is a bad example, not the representative in whom we stand guilty. Similarly, Christ is a good example, not the representative in whom we stand righteous. Although Pelagianism was successfully refuted and exposed as heresy by the early church (cf. Titus 3:5-7 and many more Scripture passages), its influence and impact on the church have never entirely disappeared and at various times in history has even come to dominate the thinking of the church. Indeed, such is the case today. As Roger Nicole declared, ―We are all born Pelagians.‖ Conversion to Christ does not instantly cure us of our Pelagian tendencies. From the earliest days of our conversion, our Pelagianism is reinforced on every side. We brought it with us out of paganism, and 255

the secular world around us reinforces it with the humanistic view of human freedom and inherent goodness. In the church we are widely exposed to Pelagianism and its variations, which has had American evangelicalism in a stranglehold since the days of Charles Finney (the contemporary source and inspiration for advocates of such practices as mass evangelism and imploring individual audience members to ―make a decision for Christ.‖). Indeed, Finney, the revivalist of the last century, is a patron saint for most evangelicals today. And yet, he denied original sin, the substitutionary atonement, justification, and the need for regeneration by the Holy Spirit. In short, Finney was a Pelagian. This belief in human nature, so prominent in the Enlightenment, wrecked the evangelical doctrine of grace among the older evangelical Protestant denominations (now called "mainline"), and we see where that has taken them. And yet, even conservative evangelicals are heading down the same path today and have had this human-centered, workscentered emphasis for some time now. The statistics bear this out, unfortunately, and again the leaders help substantiate the error. Norman Geisler writes, "God would save all men if he could. He will save the greatest number actually achievable without violating their free will." Indeed, many ―conservative evangelicals‖ today are also expressly proposing a different slant on the doctrine of justification by faith. When the text of Scripture is properly interpreted, they say, Pauline support for the principle of justification by faith alone, the doctrine of imputation, and the distinction between law and gospel doesn‘t seem quite so strong. Contemporary Reformed Christians say that‘s nonsense. Moreover, notwithstanding the unbiblical and unreasonable historical revisionism that underlies this ―new perspective‖, and regardless of how one interprets the apostle Paul, it is quite clear that Jesus Himself taught justification by faith alone. To abandon this truth is to abandon the biblical doctrine of salvation as effected by Jesus [soteriology] altogether.


Let me blunt. No doctrine is more important to evangelical theology than the doctrine of justification by faith alone—the Reformation principle of sola fide. Martin Luther rightly said that the church stands or falls on this one doctrine. History provides plenty of objective evidence to affirm Luther‘s assessment. Churches and denominations that hold firmly to sola fide remain evangelical. Those who have strayed from the Reformation consensus on this point inevitably veer off into forms of apostasy. The Very Essence Of Christianity Historic evangelicalism has therefore always treated justification by faith as a central biblical distinctive—if not the single most important doctrine to get right. This is the doctrine that makes authentic Christianity distinct from every other religion. Christianity is the religion of divine accomplishment—with the emphasis always on Christ‘s finished work. All others are religions of human achievement. They become preoccupied, inevitably, with the sinner‘s own efforts to be holy. Abandon the doctrine of justification by faith and you cannot honestly claim to be a Christian, let alone evangelical. Scripture itself makes sola fide the only alternative to a damning system of works-righteousness: ―Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness‖ (Rom. 4:4-5), emphasis added). In other words, those who trust Jesus Christ for justification by faith alone receive a perfect righteousness that is reckoned to them. Those who attempt to establish their own righteousness or mix faith with works only receive the terrible wage that is due all who fall short of perfection. So the individual as well as the church stands or falls with the principle of sola fide. Israel‘s apostasy was rooted in their abandonment of justification by faith alone: ―For not knowing about God‘s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God‖ (Rom. 10:3).


Biblical justification must be earnestly defended on two fronts. First, it must be defended against ―No-lordship theology‖ (the erroneous notion that a person can be saved by ―accepting‖ Jesus as savior but not lord) that twists the doctrine of justification by faith to support the view that obedience to God‘s moral law is optional. This teaching attempts to reduce the whole of God‘s saving work to the declarative act of justification. It downplays the spiritual rebirth of regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17); it discounts the moral effects of the believer‘s new heart (Ezek. 36:26-27); and it makes sanctification hinge on the believer‘s own efforts. It tends to treat the forensic element of justification—God‘s act of declaring the believing sinner righteous—as if this were the only essential aspect of salvation. The inevitable effect of this approach is to turn the grace of God into licentiousness (Jude 4). Such a view is called antinomianism. Second, on the other hand, there are many who make justification dependent on a mixture of faith and works. Whereas antinomianism radically isolates justification from sanctification, this error blends the two aspects of God‘s saving work. The effect is to make justification a process grounded in the believer‘s own flawed righteousness—rather than a declarative act of God grounded in Christ‘s perfect righteousness. As soon as justification is fused with sanctification, works of righteousness become an essential part of the process. Faith is thus diluted with works. Sola fide is abandoned. This was the error of the Galatian legalists (cf. Gal. 2:16; 5:4). Paul called it ―a different gospel‖ (Gal. 1:6, 9). The same error is found in virtually every false cult. As previously explained, it‘s the main error of Roman Catholicism. I‘m concerned that it may also be the direction many who are enthralled with ―the New Perspective on Paul‖ are traveling. If doctrine as a whole has been ignored in our day, the doctrine of justification has suffered a particular neglect. Written works on justification are noticeably missing from the corpus of recent evangelical literature. In his introduction to the 1961 reprint of James Buchanan‘s century old landmark work, The Doctrine of Justification, J. I. Packer made note of this:


―If we may judge by the size of its literary output, there has never been an age of such feverish theological activity as the past hundred years; yet amid all its multifarious theological concerns it did not produce a single book of any size on the doctrine of justification. If all we knew of the church during the past century was that it had neglected the subject of justification in this way, we should already be in a position to conclude that this has been a century of religious apostasy and decline.‖ Having neglected this doctrine for more than a century, evangelicals are ill-equipped to answer those who are saying Martin Luther and the Reformers misunderstood the apostle Paul and therefore got the doctrine of justification wrong. The evangelical movement is on the verge of abandoning the material principle of the Reformation, and most evangelicals don‘t even see the threat and would have no answer cogent if they did. What must we do to be saved? The apostle Paul answered that question for the Philippian jailer in the clearest possible terms: ―Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved‖ (Acts 16:31). Paul‘s key doctrinal epistles—especially Romans and Galatians— then expand on that answer, unfolding the doctrine of justification by faith to show how we are justified by faith alone apart from human works of any kind. But, oddly, that‘s the very thing under attack by the ―New Perspective‖. So, purely for arguments sake, what if we move beyond the apostle Paul? Is it possible to prove the principle of sola fide from the earthly teaching of Christ? It certainly is. The Gospel According To Jesus Although Christ made no formal explication of the doctrine of justification (such as Paul did in his epistle to the Romans), justification by faith underlies and permeates all His gospel preaching. While Jesus


never gave a discourse on the subject, it is easy to demonstrate from Jesus‘ evangelistic ministry that He taught sola fide. For example, it was Jesus Himself who stated, ―he who hears My word, and believes … has passed out of death into life‖ (Jn. 5:24)— without undergoing any sacrament or ritual, and without any waiting period or purgatory. The thief on the cross is the classic example. On the most meager evidence of his faith, Jesus told him, ―Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise‖ (Lk. 23:43). No sacrament or work was required for him to procure salvation. Furthermore, the many healings Jesus accomplished were physical evidence of His power to forgive sins (Matt. 9:5-6). When He healed, He frequently said, ―Your faith has made you well‖ (Matt. 9:22; Mk. 5:34; 10:52; Lk. 8:48; 17:19; 18:42). All those healings were object lessons on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. But the one occasion where Jesus actually declared someone ―justified‖ (Luke 18:9-14) provides the best insight into the doctrine as He taught it: He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ―Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‗God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.‘ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‗God, be merciful to me, a sinner!‘ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.‖ (Luke 18:9-14)


That parable surely shocked Jesus‘ listeners! They were those who ―trusted in themselves that they were righteous‖ (v. 9)—the very definition of self-righteousness. Their theological heroes were the Pharisees, who held to the most rigid legalistic standards. They fasted, made a great show of praying and giving alms, and even went further in applying the ceremonial laws than Moses had actually prescribed. Yet Jesus had stunned multitudes by saying, ―Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven‖ (Matt. 5:20)—followed by, ―You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect‖ (v. 48). Clearly, He set a standard that was humanly impossible, for no one could surpass the rigorous living of the scribes and Pharisees. Now He further astounds His listeners with a parable that seems to place a detestable tax-gatherer in a better position spiritually than a praying Pharisee. Jesus‘ point is clear. He was teaching that justification is by faith alone. All the theology of justification is there. But without delving into abstract theology, Jesus clearly painted the picture for us with a parable. A Judicial Act of God This tax-gatherer‘s justification was an instantaneous reality. There was no process, no time lapse, no fear of purgatory. He ―went down to his house justified‖ (v. 14)—not because of anything he had done, but because of what had been done on his behalf. Notice that the tax-collector understood his own helplessness. He owed an impossible debt he knew he could not pay. All he could do was repent and plead for mercy. Contrast his prayer with that of the arrogant Pharisee. He did not recite what he had done. He knew that even his best works were sin. He did not offer to do anything for God. He simply pleaded for divine mercy. He was looking for God to do for him what he could not do for himself. That is the very nature of the


penitence Jesus called for. By Faith Alone Furthermore, this man went away justified without performing any works of penance, without doing any sacrament or ritual, without any meritorious works whatsoever. His justification was complete without any of those things, because it was solely on the basis of faith. Everything necessary to atone for his sin and provide forgiveness had already been done on his behalf. He was justified by faith on the spot. Again, he makes a stark contrast with the smug Pharisee, who was so certain that all his fasting and tithing and other works made him acceptable to God. But while the working Pharisee remained unjustified, the believing tax-gatherer received full justification by faith alone. An Imputed Righteousness Remember Jesus‘ statement from the Sermon on the Mount, ―Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven‖ (Matt. 5:20)? Yet now He states that this tax-gatherer—the most wicked of men—was justified! How did such a sinner obtain a righteousness that exceeded that of the Pharisee? If the standard is divine perfection (v. 48), how could a traitorous tax-collector ever become just in God‘s eyes? The only possible answer is that he received a righteousness that was not his own (cf. Phil. 3:9). Righteousness was imputed to him by faith (Rom. 4:9-11). Whose righteousness was reckoned to him? It could only be the perfect righteousness of a flawless Substitute, who in turn must bear the tax-gatherer‘s sins and suffer the penalty of God‘s wrath in his place. And the gospel tells us that is precisely what Jesus did. The tax-gatherer was justified. God declared him righteous, imputing to him the full and perfect righteousness of Christ, forgiving


him of all unrighteousness, and delivering him from all condemnation. Forever thereafter he stood before God on the ground of a perfect righteousness that had been reckoned to his account. That is what justification means. It is the only true gospel. All other points of theology emanate from it. As Packer wrote, ―The doctrine of justification by faith is like Atlas: it bears a world on its shoulders, the entire evangelical knowledge of saving grace.‖ The difference between sola fide and every other formula for justification is not theological hair-splitting. A right understanding of justification by faith is the very foundation of the gospel. You cannot go wrong on this point without ultimately corrupting every other doctrine as well. And that is why every ―different gospel‖ is under the eternal curse of God. Summary Faith alone. The Reformers never tired of saying that ‗justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.‘ When put into theological shorthand the doctrine was expressed as ―justification by faith alone,‖ the article by which the church stands or falls, according to Martin Luther. The Reformers called justification by faith Christianity‘s ―material principle,‖ because it involves the very matter or substance of what a person must understand and believe to be saved. Justification is a declaration of God based on the work of Christ. It flows from God‘s grace and it comes to the individual not by anything he or she might do but by ‗faith alone‘ (sola fide). We may state the full doctrine as: Justification is the act of God by which he declares sinners to be righteous because of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.


Sola Gratia: Our Only Method Does man initiate and participate in his forgiveness and salvation, or does God initiate and complete the salvation of sinners so that the whole work is attributed to sovereign grace alone (sola gratia)? In response to Desiderius Erasmus‘ Diatribe, Luther‘s The Bondage of the Will unequivocally sides with sovereign grace. Luther insisted that a sinner is unable to provide or even take hold of a saving remedy. In saying this, Luther attacked the Roman Catholic system of indulgences, pilgrimages, penance, fastings, purgatory, and Mariolatry. He saw that the only way to defeat Rome‘s works-based system was to strike at the root of the controversy: free grace versus free will. Thus, at the heart of the sixteenth-century controversy over salvation was the issue of grace. It was not a question of man‘s need for grace. It was a question as to the extent of that need. The church had already condemned Pelagius, who had taught that grace facilitates salvation but is not absolutely necessary for it. Semi-Pelagianism since that time has always taught that without grace there is no salvation. But the grace that is considered in all semi-Pelagian and Arminian theories of salvation is not an efficacious grace. It is a grace that makes salvation possible, but not a grace that makes salvation certain. The biggest question any semi-Pelagian or Arminian has to face at the practical level is this: Why did I choose to believe the gospel and commit my life to Christ when my neighbor, who heard the same gospel, chose to reject it? That question has been answered in many ways. We might speculate that the reason why one person chooses to respond positively to the gospel and to Christ, while another one doesn‘t, is because the person who responded positively was more intelligent than the other one. If that were the case, then God would still be the ultimate provider of salvation because the intelligence is His gift, and it could be explained that God did not give the same intelligence to the neighbor who rejected the gospel. But that explanation is obviously absurd.


The other possibility that one must consider is this: that the reason one person responds positively to the gospel and his neighbor does not is because the one who responded was a better person. That is, that person who made the right choice and the good choice did it because he was more righteous than his neighbor. In this case, the flesh not only availed something, it availed everything. This is the view that is held by the majority of evangelical Christians today, namely, the reason why they are saved and others are not is that they made the right response to God‘s grace while the others made the wrong response. We can talk here about not only the correct response as opposed to an erroneous response, but we can speak in terms of a good response rather than a bad response. If I am in the kingdom of God because I made the good response rather than the bad response, I have something of which to boast, namely the goodness by which I responded to the grace of God. Of course, it is the rare Arminian who would answer the question that I‘ve just posed by saying, ―Oh, the reason I‘m a believer is because I‘m better than my neighbor.‖ They would be loath to say that. However, though they reject this implication, the logic of semi-Pelagianism requires this conclusion. If indeed in the final analysis the reason I‘m a Christian and someone else is not is that I made the proper response to God‘s offer of salvation while somebody else rejected it, then by resistless logic I have indeed made the good response, and my neighbor has made the bad response. What Reformed theology teaches is that it is true the believer makes the right response and the non-believer makes the wrong response. But the reason the believer makes the good response is because God in His sovereign election changes the disposition of the heart of the elect to affect a good response. I can take no credit for the response that I made for Christ. God not only initiated my salvation, He not only sowed the seed, but He made sure that that seed germinated in my heart by regenerating me by the power of the Holy Spirit. That regeneration is a necessary condition for the seed to take root and to flourish. That‘s why at the heart of Reformed theology the axiom resounds, namely, that regeneration precedes faith. It‘s that formula, 265

that order of salvation that all semi-Pelagians reject. They hold to the idea that in their fallen condition of spiritual death, they exercise faith, and then are born again. In their view, they respond to the gospel before the Spirit has changed the disposition of their soul to bring them to faith. When that happens, the glory of God is shared. No semiPelagian can ever say with authenticity: ―To God alone be the glory.‖ For the semi-Pelagian, God may be gracious, but in addition to God‘s grace, my work of response is absolutely essential. Here grace is not effectual, and such grace, in the final analysis, is not really saving grace. In fact, salvation is of the Lord from beginning to end. Yes, I must believe. Yes, I must respond. Yes, I must receive Christ. But for me to say ―yes‖ to any of those things, my heart must first be changed by the sovereign, effectual power of God the Holy Spirit. Salvation is by grace alone. Those who receive grace are not merely helpless sinners who are undeserving, but are hostile rebels against God with bad hearts and bad records. God is not obligated to be kind or gracious to them. They are sinners, deserving only hell. But in accord with His nature, God showers an entirely undeserved love upon them—and as He does so, their lives are changed forever. As Ephesians 2:4-5 puts it, it is out of a heart full of rich mercy and great love that God saves—rescues, frees, liberates—sinners by grace. Though they are unlovely and loathsome to Him because of their sin, God shows love toward them. He pardons their sins, gives them knowledge of Himself, and moves them to respond with sincerity to His grace. By free, sovereign grace, therefore, we mean that the supreme God of heaven and earth—the sovereign, triune God of salvation—freely wills and applies saving grace to guilty, contemptible sinners, transforming their lives so that they enjoy Him and live for His service. Reformed theology teaches that if we experience such sovereign grace, we will understand what it really means. We will realize that if it is not free and it is not sovereign, it cannot be grace. God saves us not because of anything possible or actual, foreseen or foreordained in us, but wholly according to His Sovereign, loving good pleasure. And by clinging to God‘s grace, we, like Paul, can be joyful Christians who


victoriously confess, ―If God be for us, who can be against us?‖ (Rom. 8:31). Grace calls us (Gal. 1:15), regenerates us (Titus 3:5), justifies us (Ro. 3:24), sanctifies us (Heb. 13:20-21), and preserves us (1 Peter 1:3-5). We need grace to forgive us, to return us to God, to hear our broken hearts, and to strengthen us in times of trouble and spiritual warfare. Only by God‘s free, sovereign grace can we have a saving relationship with Him. Only through grace can we be called to conversion (Eph. 2:8-10), holiness (2 Peter 3:18), service (Phil. 2:1213), or suffering (2 Cor. 1:12). Sovereign grace crushes our pride. It shames us and humbles us. We want to be the subjects, not the objects, of salvation. We want to be active, not passive, in the process. We resist the truth that God alone is the author and finisher of our faith. By nature, we rebel against sovereign grace, but God knows how to break our rebellion and make us friends of this grand doctrine. When God teaches sinners that their very core is depraved, sovereign grace becomes the most encouraging doctrine possible. From election to glorification, grace reigns in splendid isolation. John 1:16 says we receive ―grace for grace,‖ which literally means ―grace facing or laminated to grace.‖ Grace follows grace in our lives as waves follow one another to the shore. Grace is the divine principle on which God saves us; it is the divine provision in the person and work of Jesus Christ; it is the divine prerogative manifesting itself in election, call, and regeneration; and it is the divine power enabling us freely to embrace Christ so that we might live, suffer, and even die for His sake and be preserved in Him for eternity. Reformed Christians understand that, without sovereign grace, everyone would be eternally lost. Salvation is all of grace and all of God. Life must come from God before the sinner can arise from the grave. Free grace cries out for expression in the church today. Human decisions, crowd manipulations, and altar calls will not produce genuine


converts. Only the old fashioned gospel of sovereign grace will capture and transform sinners by the power of the Word and Spirit of God. God‘s Riches At Christ‘s Expense

Summary Grace alone. The words sola gratia mean that human beings have no claim upon God. That is, God owes us nothing except just punishment for our many and very willful sins. Therefore, if he does save sinners, which he does in the case of some but not all, it is only because it pleases him to do it. Indeed, apart from this grace and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that flows from it, no one would be saved, since in our lost condition, human beings are not capable of winning, seeking out, or even cooperating with God‘s grace. By insisting on ‗grace alone‘ the Reformers were denying that human methods, techniques, or strategies in themselves could ever bring anyone to faith. It is grace alone expressed through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ, releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from death to spiritual life.


Solus Christus: Our Only Mediator Reformed theology affirms that Scripture, grace, and faith all emphasize that salvation is ―by Christ alone‖–that is, Christ is the only Savior (cf. Acts 4:12). The centrality of Christ is the foundation of the Protestant faith. Luther said that Jesus Christ is the ―center and circumference of the Bible‖—meaning that who He is and what He did in death and resurrection is the fundamental content of Scripture. It is from its object, Jesus Christ, that faith derives its value. In fact, all people have ―faith‖ in something: faith in money, faith in themselves, faith that there is no God, etc. But there is no saving power in the mere exercise of faith, no matter how sincere or devout that faith might be. This is so because it is not faith itself that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ, the Almighty Savior on whom its rests. Indeed, strictly speaking, it is not even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith. In light of contemporary notions of ―faith‖, it is perhaps ironic that the Reformation was, more than anything else, an assault on faith in humanity, and a defense of the idea that God alone reveals Himself and saves us. We do not find Him; He finds us. That emphasis was the cause of the cry, "Christ alone!" Jesus was the only way of knowing what God is really like, the only way of entering into a relationship with Him as father instead of judge, and the only way of being saved from His wrath. The Reformers unabashedly proclaimed salvation by Christ alone (solus Christus). Only in Christ is life, and outside of Him is death, they said. God‘s justice can be satisfied only through Christ‘s obedience. Outside of Christ, God is an everlasting, all-consuming fire; In Christ, He is a gracious Father. Without Christ, we can do nothing; in Him, we can do all things (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13). As Luther says, ―We cannot grasp or exhaust Christ with one sermon or thought; for to learn to appreciate Him is an everlasting lesson which we shall not be able to finish either in this or in yonder life.‖ In Christ alone is salvation. Paul makes plain in Romans 1 and 2 that though there is a self-manifestation of God outside of His saving


work in Christ, no amount of natural theology can unite God and man. Union with Christ is the only way of salvation. We urgently need to hear solus Christus in our day of pluralistic theology, which has such a low view of Scripture. There is currently underway a strong trend in both Protestant and Roman Catholic theology to call into question the classical Christian confession that Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior of the world. Indeed, today, this affirmation is clearly in trouble. According to University of Virginia sociologist James Hunter, 35% of evangelical seminarians deny that faith in Christ is absolutely necessary. According to pollster George Barna, that is the same figure for conservative, evangelical Protestants in America: "God will save all good people when they die, regardless of whether they've trusted in Christ," they agreed. Postmodernism sees truth as wholly pluralistic and relativistic. There is no universal or absolute truth in any area of knowledge, not even in religion. Postmodernists, therefore, are skeptics who fully reject any classical concept of truth. The exclusive claims of Christ and Christianity are anathema to them. They see no beauty in Christ or in His stupendous work, that they should desire Him. As a cumulative result of the influence of liberal Protestantism and, more recently, the secular perspective of postmodernism, many professed Christians in contemporary America proclaim and worship ―a God without wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.‖ Today, the battle cry of "Christ alone!" is barely a whisper. In contrast to the modern tendency to disparage the rich history of classic Christianity, it should be noted that our Reformed forebears, drawing on a biblical perspective traceable all the way back to the fourth-century writer Eusbius of Caesarea, found it helpful to think about Christ as the Mediator, who, in this mediatorial capacity, holds a threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King. Let us look more closely at His role as Mediator and these three offices. Jesus Christ: Mediator of the New Covenant


In the seventeenth century the Westminster Confession of Faith declared that ―it pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Savior of His Church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom He did from all eternity give a people, to be His seed, and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.‖ In this brief statement the Westminster divines summarized the mediatorial office of Christ. As Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, so Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant. A mediator is a go-between for two or more parties. They seek an end to conflict, peace in the midst of some type of quarrel. In a word, the chief task of the mediator is to bring about reconciliation where there is estrangement. The biblical drama of redemption focuses on reconciliation, an end to the estrangement between God and people. The natural state of fallen humanity is one of enmity toward God. Our rebellion against his divine rule sets us in opposition to him. We provoke his anger, and his judgment is set against us. We are in desperate need of reconciliation. It pleased God the Father to take the initiative to end this perilous estrangement by appointing Christ as our Mediator. Though we say Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, his work of mediation was not one of ultimate reconciliation. His chief mediatorial work was, as God‘s spokesman, to deliver the law to God‘s people when he formed them as a nation at Sinai. Indeed Moses was not the only mediator of this covenant. Others filled that role to a lesser degree. There were three main offices of mediation: the office of prophet, the office of priest, and the office of king. Persons who occupied these offices were anointed by God for these functions. The idea of ―anointing‖ grows in significance in biblical history as the Old Testament looked forward to one who would be the supremely ―Anointed One.‖ The title Christ means ―One who is anointed.‖


Persons occupying the three offices of prophet, priest, and king were go-betweens. They were selected by God to be representatives. The prophet represented God, speaking to the people on God‘s behalf, mediating his word to the people. The priest represented the people, speaking to God on the people‘s behalf. (Most liturgies assign the minister a combination of prophetic and priestly roles. When he reads the Scriptures or preaches a sermon, he fills a prophetic role. When he prays for the people, he serves a priestly role.) The office of king was also mediatorial. The king was not autonomous or ultimately sovereign. He was to represent the rule of God over the people. The king of Israel was himself subject to the King‘s law. He was accountable and answerable to God for how he conducted his office. The frequent conflict in the Old Testament between kings and prophets was provoked by the corruption of the kings who sought freedom from the constraints of the Kings‘s law. The prophets spoke to those kings for God, calling them to repent and to submit to the ultimate King. John Calvin developed the Reformed doctrine of the threefold office of Christ, to which the Westminster Confession would later allude. This threefold office refers to the consolidation of the Old Testament roles of prophet, priest, and king in the person of Christ. Christ As Prophet In Christ the office of prophet reaches its zenith. Christ exceeds the level of any prophet before or after him. He is both the object and the subject of biblical prophecy. For Old Testament prophets their chief subject matter was the coming of Christ. They foretold his birth, ministry, and atoning death. They looked forward to the Messiah, who would be God‘s anointed king, as well as the Savior of his people. Jesus also filled the role of the prophet. At his baptism Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Later God announced from heaven that Jesus is his beloved Son and that people should listen to him. He spoke the prophetic word of God, declaring that he said nothing on his own but only what the Father had commissioned him to say.


Jesus frequently used the same form of announcements used by Old Testament prophets. Prophetic oracles, for example, were divine pronouncements of either weal or woe. Jesus‘ denunciation of scribes and Pharisees was usually prefaced by the words, ―Woe unto you.‖ His pronouncements of God‘s favor and mercy were introduced by the words ―Blessed are you,‖ as in the Sermon on the Mount. The ―woe‖ and ―blessed‖ formulas employed by Jesus harkened back to oracles pronounced by Old Testament prophets. His first recorded sermon (Luke 4:18-21), given in a synagogue, was based on a prophetic text. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2, then began his sermon, ―Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.‖ Jesus also engaged in prophetic predictions, such as foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:1-28). If we were to analyze the content of Jesus‘ prophetic utterances, we would see that the bulk of material contained within them concerns Jesus himself. The chief and central motif of his prophetic teaching, however, is the impending kingdom of God. Most of his parables focus on this subject. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus echoed the preaching of John the Baptist regarding the coming kingdom, which required a fresh level of repentance. The long-awaited and foretold kingdom was now at hand and the people were unprepared for it; they were unclean. The perceived scandal of John‘s ministry was that he called, not merely Gentiles, but Israelites to be baptized, indicating that Israel was also unclean. John called the nation to prepare itself for the coming of its King. He served as the herald of that King and announced his arrival with the agnus Dei, ―Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!‖ (John 1-29). Christ As Priest In addition to performing the prophetic office, Christ also fulfilled the Old Testament priestly office. Again, Jesus was both the subject and the object of priestly ministry. The Old Testament work of the priest centered mainly on two functions: offering sacrifices and prayers


in behalf of the people. Jesus undertakes both of these tasks and takes them their zenith. As the great High Priest, Jesus offers a sacrifice that is so efficacious, it is given once for all. It is not to be repeated. It does not need to be repeated because it is perfect in its efficacy. To repeat it would demean it and cast an ominous shadow on its value. When we say Jesus is the subject of the priesthood, we mean he actively made an oblation for the sins of his people. He offered the supreme sacrifice in our behalf. The New Testament underscores the importance of understanding that Jesus made this sacrifice voluntarily. Though he was executed by the authorities, they had no power over him except what he willingly granted to them. He insisted that none could take his life from him, but that he was laying down his life for his sheep. Jesus was also the object of his priestly work. The offering he gave was not a bull or a goat, but himself. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament had no intrinsic value to effect atonement. They were but shadows or symbols representing the ultimate sacrifice that would be made by Christ. His blood and his blood alone, not the blood of bulls and goats, can satisfy the demands of God‘s justice. His was the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice of the lamb without blemish. In his sinlessness, Jesus met the qualifications required by God for propitiation. Jesus did not offer his sacrifice in the temple. His blood was not sprinkled on the earthly mercy seat. He did not enter the Holy of Holies inside Jerusalem. On the contrary, he was executed outside the city, beyond the confines of the Herodian temple. Yet he gave his offering coram Deo, ―before the face of God,‖ and was received in the heavenly sanctuary. He sprinkled his blood on the cross, yet this blood sacrifice was received in the heavenly Holy of Holies and was accepted there as the perfect atonement for sin. That Jesus fulfilled the role of high priest puzzled the Jews of the first century. They thought of the high priest strictly in terms of the Old Testament, Levitical priesthood. Since Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi, how could he be qualified for the role of high priest? To answer this question the author of Hebrews appealed to a Psalm: ―The Lord


has sworn and will not relent, ‗You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.‘‖ (Ps. 110:4). The author of Hebrews recounts the episode of Abraham meeting Melchizedek. This enigmatic person is identified as the priest of Salem. His name, Melchizedek, means ―King of righteousness,‖ and Salem derives from the Hebrew word for peace. Melchizedek receives tithes from Abraham and pronounces his blessing on the patriarch. The author of Hebrews argues that, according to Jewish custom, the lesser is blessed by the greater and the greater receives tithes from the lesser. This means that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham. The author reminds the reader that Abraham was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob, who was the father of Levi. Again, in Jewish terms, the father is ―greater‖ than the son, which makes Abraham greater than his great grandson Levi. If Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, then it follows that Melchizedek is greater than Levi. All of this demonstrates that the Old Testament had two priesthoods, and the greater of the two was the order of Melchizedek. When God appointed Jesus the great High Priest, he made him a priest, not after the order of Levi, but after the order of Melchizedek, as the psalmist had prophesied. In fulfilling his priestly office Jesus not only offered the supreme, atoning sacrifice for sin, but also intercedes for his people. A strange contrast can be seen in the New Testament between the fate of Judas and the fate of Peter. Both men were disciples of Christ. Both betrayed him in the night before his death, and Jesus predicted both treacherous acts. When foretelling Judas‘ betrayal, Jesus simply said to him, ―What you [have to] do, do quickly‖ (John 13:27). When predicting that Peter would deny him, Jesus said to Peter, ―But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren‖ (Luke 22:32). There was no question of Peter‘s future repentance and restoration. This had been insured by Jesus‘ intercessory prayer in Peter‘s behalf. Judas did not receive the same benefit. In his high-


priestly prayer Jesus said: ―While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.‖ (John 17:12) ―The son of perdition‖ clearly refers to Judas. Jesus‘ priestly ministry of intercession is cited by the author of Hebrews: ―Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.‖ (Heb. 4:14-16) Christ‘s priestly ministry included not only the offering of himself as the perfect oblation for our sins and the perfect atonement to render satisfaction of divine justice, but also his prayers: So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” Christ‘s intercessory work did not end with his earthly ministry. It continues perpetually in heaven. In his ascension Jesus was elevated to the role of King situated at the Father‘s right hand, and in his session at the Father‘s right hand Jesus continues to make intercession for us daily. Christ As King


As king, Christ fulfills Old Testament prophecies of an eternal kingdom for David and his seed. In Christ the fallen throne of David is restored. In Reformed theology the kingdom of God has not been utterly postponed to the future. Though that kingdom has not yet been consummated, it has been inaugurated and is a present reality. It is now invisible to the world. But Christ has already ascended. He has had his coronation and investiture. At this very moment he reigns as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus is enthroned at God‘s right hand, and all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. It is a profound political reality that Christ now occupies the supreme seat of cosmic authority. The kings of this world and all secular governments may ignore this reality, but they cannot undo it. The universe is no democracy. It‘s a monarchy. God himself has appointed his beloved Son as the preeminent King. Jesus does not rule by referendum, but by divine right. In the future every knee will bow before him, either willingly or unwillingly. Those who refuse to do so will have their knees broken with a rod of iron. At present the kingship of Christ is invisible. Our King is not visibly present in his realm, but his reign is real. No usurper can snatch it out of his hands. We live in this world as outcasts, but we must remain loyal to our King, who has ventured into a far country. We await his return in glory, seeking to give him reality in his absence. Our mission is to bear witness to his reign, which he instructed us to do just moments before he departed for heaven. John Calvin argued that the church‘s task is to make the invisible kingdom of Christ visible. The essence of the ministry of witness is to make manifest what is hidden to the eyes of men. Our King is also Prophet and Priest, perfectly fulfilling the role of mediator of a New Covenant that was sealed by and in his blood. If you are a true son or daughter of the Reformation, Christ in his threefold offices as Prophet-Priest-King will mean everything to you. The gospel is a gospel of solus Christus because, from beginning to end, it has everything to do with who Christ is and what He accomplished outside of us, for us, in our stead. Do you love and live


solus Christus? Do you love Him in His person, offices, natures, and benefits? Is He your Prophet to teach you; your Priest to sacrifice for, intercede for, and bless you; and your King to rule and guide you? Have you learned to know Christ personally and experientially as your Savior and Lord? Have you learned that He is more than an example whom we should emulate, more than a martyr who is heroic, more than a psychotherapist who can heal your inner psychological wounds, and more than a ―Santa Christ‖ who gives you health and wealth? Have you learned that, in terms of salvation, Jesus Christ is everything to you, a sinner? Have you seen in your joys and sorrow that Christ is directing your life with such love and compassion that you have cried out with astonishment to others, ―I am nothing, but Jesus is everything‖? Have you experienced something of the depth of the confession: ―your life is hid with Christ in God‖ (Co. 3:3)? Can you say with Paul, ―For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain‖ (Phil. 1:21)? Summary Christ alone. The church of the Middle Ages spoke about Christ. A church that failed to do that could hardly claim to be Christian. But the medieval church had added many human achievements to Christ‘s work, so that it was no longer possible to say that salvation was entirely by Christ and his atonement. This was the most basic of all heresies, as the Reformers rightly perceived. It was the work of God plus our own righteousness. The Reformation motto solus Christus was formed to repudiate this error. It affirmed that salvation has been accomplished once for all by the mediatorial work of the historical Jesus Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification, and any ‗gospel‘ that fails to acknowledge that or denies it is a false gospel that will save no one.


Soli Deo Gloria: Our Only Ambition Soli Deo gloria is the motto that grew out of the Protestant Reformation and was used on every composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. He affixed the initials SDG at the bottom of each manuscript to communicate the idea that it is God and God alone who is to receive the glory for the wonders of His work of creation and of redemption. Most serious Christian thinkers acknowledge that glorifying God is one of man‘s callings, both in this life and the life to come. Reformed theology, however, goes beyond this in emphasizing the following truths: God‟s goal is to manifest His glory. He manifests His glory in all that He does, most remarkably in displaying His moral excellence to His creatures and evoking their praise for its beauty and for the benefit it brings them (cf. Eph. 1:3). God‘s glory is that which makes Him appear glorious to angels and men. The word glory in Hebrew, kabod, derives from a root word meaning ―weight.‖ For example, the value of a gold coin was determined by its weight. To have weight, therefore, is to have value or worth. The Greek word for glory, doxa, originally meant ―opinion.‖ This word refers to the worth or value which we, in our opinion, assign to someone or something. The Hebrew idea speaks of what is inherent in God—His intrinsic value or worth; the Greek idea speaks of the response of intelligent and moral beings to the value or worth they see manifested by God‘s Word and works. In both testaments of the Bible, the word glory means the display of excellence and praiseworthiness (glory shown), as well as the response of honor and adoration in this display (glory given). God‘s glory is the beauty of His manifold perfections, as well as the awesome radiance that breaks forth from those perfections. His moral excellence of character shines forth in greatness and worth in His acts of creation, providence, and redemption (Isa. 44:23; John 12:28; 13:31-32). Seeing this excellence, God‘s worshippers give Him glory by praising, thanking, and obeying Him (John 17:4; 21:19; Rom. 4:20; 15:6, 9; 1 Peter 4:12-16).


The seraphim declared in Isaiah 6:3, ―The whole earth is full of God‘s glory.‖ They affirmed that God is to receive glory in everything, even the damnation of the wicked, but the ultimate glory of God is that the earth is to be filled with the display of His saving grace. As Romans 5:21 says, ―That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.‖ So the greatest display of God‘s glory in the world is shown through the person of His Son. As Acts 3:13 says, ―The God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus.‖ Man‟s chief end is to glorify God. In all that he does, by word and by deed, man must seek to bring glory to his Creator and Redeemer. Calvin embodied this truth in his life and writings, as well as in his death. As his life drew to an end, Calvin‘s body was ravaged by numerous diseases. His pain became so severe that his dearest friends begged him to stop working. Calvin replied, ―What? Would my Lord find me idle?‖ How typical that was of the man who lived by the motto: ―My heart I offer to Thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely.‖ Reformed believers likewise devote their lives to the glory of God. They are men and women who are convinced that their chief end in life is to glorify God. As the Heidelberg Catechism states so beautifully, their only comfort in life and death is that they belong to their faithful Savior, Jesus Christ (Q. 1). When the Reformed believer clings to soli Deo Gloria in his spiritual pilgrimage, he confesses that all God does is good. Based on Scripture and for Christ‘s sake, he is confident that all things will work to the glory of God and for his good (Rom. 8:28). Man‟s chief delight is to praise God. We find supreme happiness in praising God. It is the highest, most rewarding act. The Westminster Shorter Catechism expresses this most succinctly when it says, ―Man‘s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.‖ Glory to God alone is the heartbeat of the Reformation. The giving of glory to God, of course, is not intended to give Him something that He lacks. When God is glorified in human lives and with human words, He is not made one whit more glorious than He always has been and always will be. In the words of the seventeenth-century Puritan divine, Thomas Watson, ―God‘s glory is such an essential part of His


being, that He cannot be God without it.‖ Rather, a doxology extols God for who He is and acknowledges why He is worthy of human praise and adoration. Do we understand this kind of glory? Do we love to glorify God and live for Him? Can we say, at times, with Jonathan Edwards: ―The greatest moments of my life have not been those that have concerned my own salvation, but those when I have been carried into communion with God and beheld His beauty and desired His glory . . . I rejoice and yearn to be emptied and annihilated of self in order that I might be filled with the glory of God and Christ alone‖? The true Reformed believer yearns to use every gift that God has given to glorify God. He resolves to live out Paul‘s command: ―Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God‘s . . . Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God‖ (1Cor. 6:20; 10:31). Paul‘s doxological paradigm in Romans 11:36 sets the standard for living to God‘s glory alone: ―For of him, and through him, and to him all things: to whom be glory forever‖ (Rom. 11:36). These three prepositions—of, through, and to—say it all. ―Of him‖ indicates that God is the source of all things. Everything has its origin or cause in God (John 1:3). ―Through him‖ indicates that God is the sustainer of all He created; He alone holds it all together (Co. 1:17). ―To him‖ indicates God is the goal; all things exist for Him. Commenting on Romans 11:36, Calvin says: ―He is the source of all things in that they have proceeded from him; he is the Creator. He is the agent through whom all things subsist and are directed to their proper end. And he is the last end to whose glory all things redound.‖ Using this paradigm, how does the Reformed believer glorify God? By confessing his sin to God and fleeing to Christ for forgiveness and for having God‘s nature restored to him. By praising, worshiping, and delighting in the triune God as Creator, Provider, and Redeemer. By trusting God and surrendering all things into His hands. By being fervently zealous for the triune God‘s glory. By walking humbly, thankfully, and cheerfully before God and becoming increasingly conformed to the image of His Son. By knowing, loving, and living the


commands of God‘s Word. By being heavenly minded and cherishing the desire to be with God forever. Soli Deo Gloria is the Reformed believer‘s highest ambition. No other goal or desire can measure up to living for God‘s glory. The true believer finds purpose and joy in glorifying God. By grace, he believes, knows, loves, and lives the penultimate battle cry of the Reformation, soli Deo Gloria. Summary Glory to God alone. Each of the great solas is summed up in the fifth Reformation motto: soli Deo gloria, meaning ‗to God alone be the glory.‘ It is what the apostle Paul expressed in Romans 11:36 when he wrote, ‗to Him be the glory forever! Amen.‘ These words follow naturally from the preceding words, ―For from him and through him and to him are all things‖ (v. 36), since it is because all things really are from God, and to God, that we say, ‗to God alone be the glory.‘‖


Chapter 13

A Short Explanation and Defense of the Doctrines of Grace GRACE AND SALVATION What is the grace of God? The Greek word translated grace has as its root idea the concept of bringing joy and gladness through gifts. The Apostle Paul uses this word to refer to the unmerited and freely given favor and mercy which God bestows upon the sinner in salvation. Through this grace, the sinner is delivered from sin and judgment. This grace, though freely given, is precious and costly, for its basis is the saving work of Jesus Christ. A salvation that is received by grace is the very opposite of a salvation that is earned by working or by obeying the law of God. A person who is saved by grace has no basis for boasting in his salvation for he has done nothing to earn or merit it. The gospel of grace is the only true gospel. Those who teach a salvation that is earned or merited through obedience of any sort have to some degree fallen from the teachings of grace into legalism. Below is a sampling of verses from Holy Scripture regarding grace, with emphasis added: Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:4 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. Romans 5:15 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. Romans 11:6


For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel. Galatians 1:6 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (God) has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. 2 Timothy 1:9 What is the relationship of God's grace to salvation? There are three possible answers to this question. A few argue that there is no grace in salvation. Some maintain that salvation is mostly of grace. And others say that salvation is all of grace. The position that salvation is not at all a gracious gift from God but a human achievement based on personal goodness and moral selfeffort is characteristic of pagan religion and philosophy. Early in church history, a British monk named Pelagius tried to teach pagan moralism as Christian doctrine. Pelagius was condemned as a heretic, and his system was labeled Pelagianism. In Pelagianism, the saving work of Christ is not necessary; a man can save himself by leading a good and moral life. Yet even the Pelagian claims to teach a salvation by grace. According to the Pelagian, it is only by the grace of God that he was created as a man, a noble creature with the moral ability to earn heaven, and not as a frog or a rock. When the Pelagian speaks of the grace associated with salvation, he is referring to the grace of creation which is common to all men. When the orthodox Christian talks about salvation by grace, he is referring to the special grace of God which is based upon the work of Christ and which saves undeserving sinners.


There are many systems that teach that salvation is mostly of grace but not all of grace. The most common of these are semipelagianism and Arminianism. What is common to all these systems is the idea that the work of Christ has only made salvation a possibility for all but not a finished reality for any. God has done His part, and now those who are willing to do their part will be saved. In these systems, although God has the major role in salvation, it is the human contribution to salvation that turns the point and makes the difference between heaven and hell. Where these various systems differ is in defining the human contribution that results in salvation. It can be one or any combination of a number of spiritual acts and attitudes, such as nonresistance to the Holy Spirit, cooperation with the Holy Spirit, faith, works, obedience, perseverance, baptism, church membership, etc. In these systems, the saving work of Christ is necessary for salvation but not sufficient. The sinner must supplement the work of Christ to obtain salvation. The doctrines of grace are the teaching that salvation is all of grace. The saving work of Christ is both necessary and sufficient to save sinners. In this system, it is the cross of Christ without compromise which makes the difference between heaven and hell. There is no room for any boasting whatsoever. The believer in grace looks at others who have rejected Jesus Christ and who remain in bondage to sin and says, "There but for the grace of God go I." The believer in grace recognizes that he did not turn the point in his salvation. He did not respond to the gospel in faith because of any natural goodness or wisdom which sets him apart from others. All the glory goes to Jesus Christ, for He has done it all. Even the ability to come to Christ in saving faith is a gift based upon the cross of Calvary. At the cross, Christ purchased for His people deliverance from the spirit of unbelief. Through His resurrection, He secured for His people the spiritual life which enables them to savingly believe. When a sinner is converted in response to the preaching of the gospel, it is because Christ has poured out His Holy Spirit upon him to apply to his heart the saving power of Christ's death and resurrection. The doctrines of grace are the teaching that Jesus came into this world to save sinners. Jesus saves sinners. It is not that Jesus saves sinners when given the proper help. Jesus and only Jesus does the 285

work of salvation. Jesus saves sinners. It is not that Jesus potentially saves or makes salvation possible. Jesus actually saves and completely saves. His work is a finished work that needs no rounding out or filling in. Jesus saves sinners. It is not that Jesus has made salvation a possibility for all but a finished accomplishment for no one. Jesus came to earth to make salvation a reality for specific individual sinners. The doctrines of grace are usually discussed in terms of five separate doctrines which are called the five points of Calvinism. There is independent Scriptural support for each of the five points, and the five points are logically related such than any one of them implies the other four. The five points are easily remembered with the help of the acronym TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints. TOTAL DEPRAVITY The first of the five points is the teaching of total depravity. This doctrine has to do with fallen man's natural spiritual state. The doctrines of grace teach that salvation is all of God's grace, and the doctrine of total depravity relates to this by demonstrating that natural man is unable to do anything to earn or merit his own salvation. Fallen man has an inclination toward sinning that permeates and dominates his total person. Fallen man is not an absolutely depraved creature who has reached the limits of corruption and is as evil as is possible. Fallen man's depravity is not absolute but total, which means that his sin orientation controls his total life and taints every aspect of his life. Total depravity is like the complete discoloration of a glass of clear water with a few well-stirred drops of ink. The water is not as black as possible but every single drop has been tainted. The discoloration pervades the solution and becomes its dominant characteristic. And such is the case with fallen man's nature in regard to sin. The worst of men can do good in outward conformity with the law of God (Luke 6:33). This does not mean, however, that such deeds are good in the eyes of God. At issue in God's measure of good is not only outward conformity but also proper motivation, disposition and aim.


The proper motivation is love for God and fellow men (Matthew 22:3740). To have the proper goal, one must seek above all else to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and to promote His righteous rule in all of life (Matthew 6:33). The proper disposition is belief in God's Word (Hebrews 11:6). In relation to this standard of good, the Bible says "There is none who does good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12) and "All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). The Bible teaches that fallen man in his natural state is at enmity against God and cannot please Him (Romans 8:7-8). He does not seek after God and he does not do good (Romans 3:11-12). He has gone astray and has turned to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). Apart from the gift of God's regenerating grace, he is morally unable to come to Christ in saving faith (John 6:65; 10:26; 12:39-40). Emotionally, he loves moral darkness (John 3:19) and the things of Satan (John 8:44), and he hates God's light (John 3:20). Intellectually, the things of God are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 2:14) and his understanding is darkened (Ephesians 4:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 8:43, 47). Volitionally, he has been taken captive by the devil to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26; John 8:44). In regard to his total being, he is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1; John 5:25). Fallen man is totally depraved and in need of a Savior from the time of his conception. The verse most often quoted to prove this is Psalm 51:5, where the Psalmist David said: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin did my mother conceive me." Those who deny the morally depraved nature of infants tend to speculate that this verse is teaching that David was an illegitimate child. Even if one accepted this highly improbable interpretation of this verse, there are still other verses which clearly teach what is commonly called the doctrine of original sin: Psalm 58:3: "The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies." Isaiah 48:8: ". . . I knew that you would deal very treacherously, And were called a transgressor from the womb."


The doctrine of original sin can also be deduced from the Scriptural teaching that all men in their natural state have a corrupt nature and the Scriptural teaching that a person's basic nature is established from birth. In Ephesians 2:3, the Apostle Paul made the statement that Christians before their conversion "were by nature children of wrath." Jesus taught this same essential truth when He compared the sinner to a bad tree that can only bear bad fruit (Matthew 7:18). The bad tree does not environmentally develop its natural propensity to bear bad fruit. This is its very nature from the beginning of its existence. Scripture teaches that a person's basic nature, like that of the bad tree, is already established at the time of his birth. John 3:6 says: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," the word flesh referring to a fleshly or carnal sin nature. After Adam fell into sin, we read that his son was born in his image (Genesis 5:3); that is to say, the moral image of a sinner. Fallen man is unable to come to Christ in saving faith not in the sense that God is prohibiting him or erecting any external barriers. The inability is moral and arises from fallen man's heart condition. Fallen man is free in the sense that he is free to do as he pleases, free to act spontaneously in accordance with his own inclinations. But what we are determines what we want. And what we want determines what we will to do. People are like fruit trees whose roots determine what sort of fruit they bear. A bad heart can no more produce good than a thornbush can produce grapes (Matthew 7:16-18). One can only bring forth evil from an evil heart (Matthew 12:34-35). Thus, sinful man's freedom to do as his heart desires is slavery to sinful living (Romans 6:20). He cannot do good or seek after God (Romans 3:11-12). Free agency plus a depraved nature produces not a free will but a will enslaved to sin (2 Peter 2:19). Man is a slave to his own desires. Some today view the lost in their natural state as drowning men desperately looking for a life line. Scripture paints a much more desperate picture. Man in his natural state is like a man who has already drowned and is dead (Ephesians 2:1). Fallen man is in a state of total spiritual inability and can contribute nothing toward his own salvation. When a man savingly believes, the saving power of Christ has already delivered him from his state of spiritual death. The man


who believes (present tense) is the man who has passed over (past tense) from death unto life (John 5:24-25; cf. 1 John 5:1). OBJECTIONS AGAINST TOTAL DEPRAVITY The main argument commonly used against the doctrine of total depravity is not a Biblical argument at all but a philosophical argument. And we must take care not to be theologically defrauded through human philosophies and worldly axioms (Colossians 2:8). This philosophical argument is that moral responsibility implies moral ability, that ought implies can. According to this axiom, since God holds fallen man accountable for believing in Christ, then fallen man must have enough spiritual life and goodness within himself to savingly believe. If fallen man ought to believe, then fallen man can believe. And, by implication, if fallen man does not have within himself sufficient moral goodness to obey the Gospel command, then God cannot hold him accountable for this moral failure. In other words, ability limits responsibility. In some contexts, this principle does apply as a general rule. For example, in a well run office, the responsibilities of the workers should be a fair measure of their office abilities, and vice versa. But there are other contexts where this principle simply does not apply. For example, only the baseball player who is up to bat has the ability to drive home runs or to strike out. Yet if the player at bat does strike out and thus loses the game, the whole team loses. Which of these two analogies best fits Adam's situation when he fell into sin? Was he an office worker who alone was fired because of his failure? Or was he a player up to bat who struck out for an entire team? The Bible gives us the answer: "for by one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19a). Normally a person cannot be held accountable for the sins of another or rewarded for the obedience of another (Ezekiel 18:20). The two exceptions are Adam and Jesus. When Adam sinned in the Garden, He did so as the covenant head of the human race. When Jesus, the second Adam, obeyed even to death on the cross, He did so as the covenant Head of all who believe in Him. "For as in Adam all


die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22; cf. Romans 5:12-21). Adam as originally created had both the moral responsibility to obey God and the moral ability to fulfill that responsibility. When Adam sinned in the Garden, he lost his native moral ability. That was one dimension of the death which God had warned would result from sin. Adam did not, however, through his disobedience lose any of his moral responsibility to obey God. Just as squandering the family inheritance does not somehow automatically lessen financial obligations, so Adam's loss of original righteousness did not relieve him or his posterity of their obligation to obey God. After his fall into sin, Adam no longer had the moral ability to meet his continuing moral obligation. He retained the moral ought but lost the moral can. And that is the situation his children, the human race, have inherited. In addition to the Bible's teaching on the relationship of the human race to Adam's first sin, the Bible also teaches very clearly that a moral ought does not necessarily imply a moral can. For example, the Bible teaches that those who are accustomed to doing evil ought instead to do good. The Bible also teaches that those who are accustomed to doing evil can no more do good than the leopard can change his spots (Jeremiah 13:23). This axiom also proves too much. Limiting its application to Gospel obedience is quite arbitrary. If ought implies can, then everybody has the moral ability to live a sinless life because living a sinless life is what everyone ought to do. The consistent application of this axiom leads to pure Pelagianism, the teaching that fallen man has the moral ability to save himself by living a morally perfect life. Finally, this axiom implies that a perverse and corrupt heart is an excuse for sinning. If responsibility implies ability, then no ability implies no responsibility. But this is not what the Bible teaches. For example, Christ compared false prophets to bad trees that cannot bear good fruit. Here is a clear case of moral inability. They cannot bear good fruit. Does this mean that God releases such men from their responsibility to bear the good fruit of godly living? No, not at all. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into


the fire" (Matthew 7:19). An evil heart is no excuse for sin. On the contrary, a hardened and incorrigible heart is all the more reason for judgment. Other Scriptures which contradict the "ought implies can" axiom are easy enough to find (Romans 8:7, 8; 9:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 2:14; John 6:44). UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION The second point is unconditional election. To elect is to choose, and I assume all would agree that God's people are His chosen people (1 Peter 2:9). The real issue is why God chose the people He did. Is it because they met some condition, passed some test, were better or wiser than others? Or is God's choice all of grace and totally a matter of God's mercy upon the undeserving? The doctrine of unconditional election teaches the latter. God elected His people before time began (Ephesians 1:4) and thus made His choices before the people involved had actually done anything good or evil. From this basic fact, Paul argues that God's election is based not on human will or works but on God's sovereign choice to have mercy on whomever He will have mercy (Romans 9:1016). The Christian chooses God when he savingly believes, but it is God's choice that is primary and deciding. This can sometimes be confusing to people. C.H. Spurgeon helpfully explains this situation as follows: When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and thought I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me . . . [Then] the thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence on my mind to make me seek Him . . . I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author


of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me . . . I desire to make this constant confession, ―I ascribe my change wholly to God.‖ It is not that God chose His people because He foresaw that they would believe or live holy lives. Rather God's people believe and obey because God freely chose in eternity past to give them grace in Christ Jesus (Acts 13:48; 18:27; Ephesians 1). God's choice of a people was not the result of their faith and holiness but rather is the cause of their faith and holiness (Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). As Jesus said in John 15:16: "You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit." The Christian should not think that God has chosen him because he is any better than others. Paul spoke of sinful humanity as one common lump of clay, and of God as the divine Potter who chooses from this common lump some clay to make vessels unto mercy and some to make vessels unto wrath (Romans 9:20-23). God chooses His people not because they are naturally better clay than others. In fact, God's chosen people before their salvation are often the more foolish and weak and lowly so that God will have all the glory for their salvation (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). God's choice is not because of human merit but according to His own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:5). Some question God's fairness in giving free grace to some while allowing the rest to remain in their slavery to sin (Romans 9:18-20; 1 Peter 2:8). We must remember that fairness would be for God to allow all to remain in sin and under judgment. God's choice to save some is all of mercy and grace. But, you say, what about Romans 8:29 where it says that those whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son? Does this not mean that God before the foundation of the world looked ahead into history to see who would believe and obey and then chose them to be His people? That would mean that faith and obedience are the cause or condition of God's election. That would mean that God in eternity past did not plan out history but merely passively observed history to see what would happen. Since we


must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, this understanding of divine foreknowledge cannot be correct. Scripture clearly teaches that faith and good works are the result of God's election, not the cause or reason for God's choice (Acts 13:48; Ephesians 2:10; John 15:16). Also Scripture teaches that the reason God is able to know the future is because He is in total control of the future (Isaiah 46:8-11). The idea that God knows the future without having planned it and without controlling it is totally foreign to Scripture. Also notice that Paul in Romans 8 was not talking about foresight but about foreknowledge. Foreknowledge does not refer to God's finding those who merit salvation but rather to God's setting His heart and affections upon those whom He has chosen to freely give salvation. The foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is God's saying "Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I will draw you." In eternity past, God, standing above time and history, looked in love upon certain children of Adam who, like all the rest, deserved only God's wrath, and He chose to give them mercy and grace in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:29 does not speak of God's knowing something about people but of God's personally knowing certain people. This is not the passive knowledge of the intellectual observation of events but the active knowledge of personal acquaintance and friendship. Scripture elsewhere speaks of this intimate, personal sort of knowledge: Psalm 1:6: The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish. Amos 3:2, with God speaking to the children of Israel: You only have I known of all the families of the earth. Genesis 18:19, with the LORD speaking of Abraham: For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.


The doctrine of election is a part of the larger teaching that God is in sovereign control of every detail of history. God is not just one influence among others, such as fate, chance and human whims. God is in absolute and total control of all that happens, and this should be the greatest of comforts to all those who love and trust Him. Some, however, object that if God is in sovereign control of history, then people are just robots, history is just a cosmic computer printout, and God is morally responsible for evil. The same Bible, however, that teaches the sovereignty of God also teaches that God is not the responsible author of evil, that man is a free moral agent who is not forced to sin and who is responsible for what he does, and that history is a meaningful, dynamic process. Our limited minds may not be able to comprehend how man can be a responsible moral agent while God is totally sovereign, but God's ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out" (Romans 11:33). The teachings of human responsibility and divine sovereignty are like two parallel lines that meet only in infinity. We cannot understand how both can be true because of the limitations of our finite minds, but God can understand such matters and God has told us that both are true. That should settle the matter for us. If God is in sovereign control, this means that there are no real chance happenings. From the human perspective, some events do appear to be accidental. For example, the parable of the good Samaritan speaks of a certain priest's coming down a road by chance (Luke 10:31). And Ruth, we read, just happened to glean in the field of Boaz (Ruth 2:3). Also, from the human perspective, the arrow that killed King Ahab was fired at random (1 Kings 22:34). Yet the death of King Ahab in that battle had been planned by God and prophesied by God's prophet. According to Scripture, God is in control of all events. As it says in Ephesians 1:11: ". . . (God) works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His will." See also Daniel 4:35; Isaiah 14:24 and Isaiah 46:9-11.


God is in control of all things, even to the fall of the sparrow and the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:29-30). There are no exceptions to this rule. When there are calamities, God is in control (Isaiah 45:7; Ecclesiastes 7:14). When there are physical handicaps, God is in control (Exodus 4:11). When evil men come to power, God is in control (Exodus 9:16; 4:21; Romans 9:18). And when someone believes or rejects the gospel message, God is in control (Acts 13:48; 1 Peter 2:8; Romans 9:16). The same is true of birth - and rebirth. Indeed, Scripture tells us that both are the result of the operation of God the Holy Spirit. Just as nothing can live biologically apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, so no man can come alive to God apart from the Spirit‘s work In His discourse with Nicodemus, Jesus said this about the Holy Spirit: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) To be ―born again‖ is to experience a second genesis. It is a new beginning, a fresh start in life. When something is started, we say that it is generated. If it is started again, it is regenerated. The Greek verb geniauo that is translated as ―generate‖ means ―to be,‖ ―to become,‖ or ―to happen.‖ Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is a change. It is a radical change into a new kind of being. To be regenerated does not mean that we are changed from a human being into a divine being. It does mean that we are changed from spiritually dead human beings into spiritually alive human beings. Spiritually dead persons are incapable of seeing the kingdom of God. It is invisible to them, not because the kingdom itself is invisible, but because the spiritually dead are also spiritually blind. Let us take a closer look at Paul‘s teaching on the subject of regeneration and election in his letter to the Ephesians: And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the 295

prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) . . . that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10) When it comes to regeneration and faith I wonder how Paul could have made it any more clear. I suppose he could have added the words to Ephesians 2, ―Regeneration precedes faith.‖ However, I honestly think that even that phrase wouldn‘t end the debate. There‘s nothing in that phrase that isn‘t already clearly spelled out by Paul in this text or by Jesus in John 3. Why then, all the fuss about which comes first, regeneration or faith? My guess is that it is because if we conclude that regeneration is by divine initiative, that regeneration is monergistic and not synergistic, that salvation is by grace alone, we cannot escape the glaring implication that leads us quickly and irresistibly to sovereign election. As soon as the doctrine of election comes to the fore, there is a mad scramble to find a way to get faith in there before regeneration. In spite of all these attending difficulties, we meet the Apostle‘s teaching head on: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Here the Apostle teaches that the faith through which we are saved is a faith that comes to us by grace. Our faith is something we


exercise by ourselves and in ourselves, but it is not of ourselves. It is a gift. It is not an achievement. With the graciousness of the gift of faith as a fruit of regeneration, all boasting is excluded forever, save in the boasting of the exceeding riches of God‘s mercy. All man-centered views of salvation are excluded if we retain the sola in sola gratia. Therefore we ought never to grieve the Holy Spirit by taking credit to ourselves that belongs exclusively to Him. Within traditional forms of Arminian theology there are those who agree that regeneration precedes faith but insist that it doesn‘t always or necessarily produce faith. This view agrees that the initiative is with God; it is by grace, and regeneration is monergistic. The view is usually tied to some type of view of universal regeneration. This idea is linked to the cross. It is argued by some that one of the universal benefits of the atonement of Christ is that all people are regenerated to the point that faith is now possible. The cross rescues all men from spiritual death in that now we have the power to cooperate or not cooperate with the offer of saving grace. Those who cooperate by exercising faith are justified. Those who do not exercise faith are born again but not converted. They are spiritually quickened and spiritually alive but remain in unbelief. Now they are able to see the kingdom and have the moral power to enter the kingdom, but they choose not to. I call this view one of ineffectual or dependent grace. When I maintain that regeneration is effectual, I mean that it accomplishes its desired goal. It is effective. It gets the job done. We are made alive into faith. The gift is of faith which is truly given and takes root in our hearts. Sometimes the phrase effectual calling is used as a synonym for regeneration. The word calling refers to something that happens inside of us, as distinguished from something that occurs outside of us. When the gospel is preached audibly, sounds are emitted from the preacher‘s mouth. There is an outward call to faith and repentance. Anyone who is not deaf is capable of hearing the words


with his ears. These words strike the auditory nerves of the regenerate and the unregenerate alike. The unregenerate experience the outward call of the gospel. This outward call will not effect salvation unless the call is heard and embraced in faith. Effectual calling refers to the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Here the call is within. The regenerate are called inwardly. Everyone who receives the inward call of regeneration responds in faith. See the below section on Irresistible Grace. In conclusion, it should be conceded that the doctrine of election is difficult, and God has not answered all our questions. On the other hand, please also note that, far from being outside the norm of classic reformed Christianity, this teaching is prominently found in the writings of the great Christian theologians, including Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and even the great medieval Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas. Finally, the Christian should respond to election not with an arrogant curiosity into the unrevealed secrets of God (Deuteronomy 29:29) but with a humble gratitude to God for His unmerited mercy. The non-Christian should respond not with useless worry as to whether his name is on God's secret list but with a prayerful seeking to obey the Gospel command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. LIMITED ATONEMENT The third point is limited atonement, perhaps the most misunderstood of the five. At issue here is the reason why the cross of Christ does not save everyone. Those who do not savingly believe in Christ will suffer eternal punishment and will never be reconciled to God. Why does the cross not save all? Is it because God has limited power in the cross or because God has a limited purpose for the cross? Did God intend to save everyone through the cross and fail, or did He plan to save only a limited number through the cross and succeed? Our position is the latter. We believe that God had a limited design or


purpose in the atonement and that the cross of Christ saves everyone God intended it to save. We believe this because God never fails to carry out His plans. If God had intended the cross to save everyone, then everyone would be saved through it. What God has planned, that He will do (Isaiah 46:911; 55:11; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11). We believe this because the Bible teaches that Jesus came to accomplish a real and saving salvation for His people. He did more for them than provide a mere possibility of salvation. See Matthew 1:21; 26:28; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-26; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 2:17; and Revelation 5:9. We believe this because the Bible says that God will give everything, including saving faith, to those for whom He delivered up His Son to die (Romans 8:32). If we were reconciled to God at the cross, then we will be saved (Romans 5:10). Through His work on the cross, Christ provided for the deliverance of His people from the spirit of unbelief and purchased for them the gift of saving faith. We believe this because the Bible teaches that the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11) but no where teaches that the Good Shepherd in like manner laid down His life for those who are not His sheep (John 10:26). Christ's sheep are those whom the Father has given Him (John 10:29), and they manifest themselves through their faith and obedience; that is, they in faith recognize Jesus as the Messianic Good Shepherd and listen to His voice and in obedience follow Him (John 10:3-4, 27). Christ died for the sheep, and all the sheep will savingly believe. Christ died for those whom the Father gave Him, and all these will come to Christ and none of them will be lost (John 6:37, 39). Those who are not Christ's sheep manifest themselves through their moral inability to believe (John 10:26). We believe this because Christ as high priest prayed only for those whom the Father had given Him (John 17:9). If Christ had offered up His life as a priestly sacrifice for everybody, then why did He not also offer up His priestly prayer for everybody?


We believe this because it would not be just for God to require double payment for sin. If Christ died equally for the sins of all men, then those who go to hell will be paying for their sins themselves even though their sins have already been paid for once through the sufferings of Christ. We believe this because the Bible speaks of individuals for whose sins there was never to be any atoning sacrifice (1 Samuel 3:14; Isaiah 22:14; Hebrews 10:26; cf. Jeremiah 18:23). This doctrine does not deny that the cross has infinite saving potential. It teaches that the cross could save everyone if God had only intended it to do so. This doctrine does not deny that there are common grace benefits from the cross for every man. In this sense, God through Christ is everyone's Savior (1 Timothy 4:10). The doctrine of limited atonement is simply that the cross of Christ provides a sure, secure and real salvation for everyone God intended it to save and for them alone. But, you ask, what about passages which mention the world and use the universal term all? These passages do not teach that God planned for the cross to save every sinner that ever lived. These passages no more refer to every individual without exception than Paul's statement that the gospel "was preached to every creature under heaven" (Colossians 1:23) means that even the slugs and snails were evangelized. Passages with universal terms must be interpreted with careful consideration of both the immediate context and the clear teaching of other verses. For example, what did Paul mean in Romans 5:18 when he said that "the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life"? He could not there be referring to all men without exception because the Bible clearly teaches that not all men will be saved. Paul's context in Romans 5 indicates that by "all men," he was there referring to all men who are under the covenant headship of Christ. The message of some other passages with universal terms is that Christ has saved the world in the sense that His people are now from every tribe, nation and tongue of the world and not from only one nation as under the old covenant. Christ also will take away the sin of the world in the sense that He will totally remove sin and the curse from the world at His second coming. 300

Some object that if Christ did not die for all men without exception, then we cannot go up to the lost and say, "Christ died for you!" But where in all of Scripture do we find an example of that sort of evangelistic message? We should follow the example of the Apostle Paul and say to the lost, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." That message is the gospel truth and in no way contradicts the doctrine of limited atonement. All are commanded to come to Christ, and none who come will be cast out. And all whom the Father has given to Christ (i.e., the elect for whom Christ died) will come (John 6:37). The doctrine of limited atonement also does not contradict the sincere nature of God's gospel offer. Our Lord Jesus Christ genuinely grieved when Jerusalem rejected Him (Matthew 23:37), and this sorrow reached to the depths of His divine Person. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and sincerely exhorts them to turn from their wicked ways and live (Ezekiel 18:23, 32). God really desires obedience to His revealed will, His commands (Deuteronomy 5:29), including the gospel command to believe in Christ. And yet at the same time, God, in terms of His secret will, has sovereignly planned all of history to bring to Himself the greatest possible glory. He has sovereignly chosen to give saving grace to some to the praise of His mercy, and He has sovereignly chosen to pass others by and allow them to remain in their depraved state to the praise of His justice. Romans 9:14-16: What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Romans 9:21-23: Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory?


There is here admittedly a degree of mystery beyond our understanding, for we cannot fully comprehend the interworkings of the secret and the revealed aspects of God's will (Deuteronomy 29:29), nor the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. All we know is that when someone rejects the gospel message, the fault is theirs and God is grieved; and when someone believes the gospel, the reason is God's sovereign gift of undeserved grace and God alone deserves the glory and the praise. IRRESISTIBLE GRACE The fourth point is irresistible grace or effectual grace. This point logically follows from the three we have discussed so far. If fallen man is totally depraved and at enmity against God and unable to do anything good, then grace must be irresistible if any are to be saved. If fallen man has to pay the price of not resisting the gospel while still in his natural state as a son of Adam, then no man will be saved, for no son of Adam has the native moral ability to pay that price. If before the foundation of the world, God "predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (Ephesians 1:5) and if God's sovereign plans never fail, then God's saving grace must always be effectual. If the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep and then gives all the sheep eternal life (John 10:11, 28), then logically the work of the atonement must be applied without fail to all for whom Christ died. According to the doctrine of irresistible grace, the spiritual state of heart that unfailingly results in repentant saving faith is a gift God gives to His people. Saving faith is not something that fallen man is able to do by means of his own natural spiritual abilities as a token payment to God in exchange for the otherwise free gift of salvation. The ability to savingly believe is a gift from God, as evidenced by the following verses: John 6:65: Jesus said: "No one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." Acts 13:48: And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.


1 Corinthians 4:7: For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it? Romans 11:36-37: Or who has first given to (God) And it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. Acts 5:31: Him God exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Acts 11:18: Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life. Acts 14:27: (God) had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 16:14: The Lord opened (Lydia's) heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. Acts 18:27: (Apollos) greatly helped those who had believed through grace. Philippians 1:29: For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ ... to believe in Him ... Philippians 2:12-13: ... it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Romans 9:16: So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Further evidence for irresistible grace is found in the Biblical data on the inner and the outer calls of the Gospel. The outer call of the Gospel is that general call to repentant faith in Christ which comes to


all who hear the Gospel message. The outer call is a promise that all will be saved who will comply with the Gospel condition of genuine faith. It is a command that tells the sinner of his obligation before God to respond to the Gospel message with this genuine faith. This general call is accompanied by a general working of the Spirit that causes a temporary conviction of sin and a temporary desire for salvation through Christ. Many who receive this outer call reject the Gospel (Matthew 22:14). All totally depraved sinners successfully resist this outward call and general work of conviction (cf. Acts 7:51) if these are not accompanied by the efficacious inner call. The inner call of the Gospel occurs when the Holy Spirit accompanies the preaching of the Gospel with life giving power. All those and only those who receive this inner call from God respond to the Gospel with truly saving faith. Romans 8:30: Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24: We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. The general call, like sheet lightning, is grand and beautiful but never strikes anything. The special call is like the forked flash from heaven. It strikes somewhere and does an effectual work. And who can resist it (cf. Romans 9:19)? Further evidence for irresistible grace is found in the language Scripture uses to describe the regenerating work of the Spirit. In places, this work is compared to a spiritual birth. The sinner contributes no more to his spiritual begetting than a baby contributes to his own conception. For a baby to do anything he must first be given life; and for a sinner to see and enter the kingdom of God, he must first be born again (John 3:3, 5). The new birth as the beginning of spiritual life is a secret work of the Holy Spirit that can no more be seen or controlled than the coming and going of the wind (John 3:8). In this begetting of life, the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the


Gospel message, which the Holy Spirit empowers as a life giving seed (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18). The effective agent in this begetting of life is not the will of man but the will of God (John 1:13; Romans 9:16). The book of First John teaches that those who are truly born again will manifest repentance, faith and good works just as surely as the newborn baby manifests life through crying and eating (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18). Though one cannot see the Holy Spirit implant spiritual life in a heart, one can see the effects of this new life, just as one cannot see the wind but can hear the sound it makes (John 3:8). The spiritual effects of this divinely implanted life are not temporary but endure and remain (1 John 3:9). Scripture also compares regenerating grace to a new creation (2 Corinthians 4:6; 5:17). And what creature has ever successfully resisted his own creation or made any active contribution to his own creation? When the Word of God goes forth as a word of new creation, it creates spiritual life just as surely as God's words "Let there be light" brought light to a darkened world. Scripture also refers to regenerating grace as a spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 2:4-5; John 5:25). When the gospel goes forth in word only, it goes forth to men dead in sins who have no spiritual life or ability wherewith to answer. But when the gospel goes forth in Spirit and in power, it carries with it the life giving power of Christ. In such circumstances, the sinner can no more stay in the sepulcher of spiritual death and refuse to come to Christ than could Lazarus have disobeyed when Christ spoke the life giving words, "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11). Will any of the physically dead be able to resist the voice of Christ when He calls them from their graves (John 5:28-29)? Neither can the spiritually dead resist the voice of Christ when He calls them to spiritual life through the gospel in the power of the Spirit (John 5:25). PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINTS The fifth point is the perseverance of the saints, perhaps the most misused of the five points. Some imagine that the perseverance of the saints means that once a person has made a public profession of


faith, he must be considered a Christian regardless of what sort of life he lives. This is not what this doctrine teaches at all. This doctrine teaches that those who truly have come to saving faith in Christ will persevere in the faith. Jesus Christ saves His people not only from hell but also from the dominance of sin in this life (Matthew 1:21). Sin cannot lord it over those who are truly the people of God (Romans 6:14; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). They are a new creation in Christ Jesus; old things have passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17). The saints will persevere, and those who persevere are the saints. We cannot see God's secret books in heaven or penetrate into the inner recesses of the human heart to see who the saints really are. We are limited to looking at a person's life to see if it is consistent with his profession of faith. As our Lord Jesus said, "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit" (Luke 6:43-44). We must avoid the opposite errors of legalism and license. Contrary to legalism, personal holiness is not meritorious; that is, we are saved by grace and not of works (Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5). Contrary to license, personal holiness is a necessary, not an optional part of the true Christian life; that is, we are saved from a life of sin and unto good works (Titus 2:14; Ephesians 2:10). Good works are not the cause of our salvation or the reason for our salvation. They are an inevitable and necessary result of our salvation. We were chosen in Christ unto holiness (Ephesians 1:4). We were chosen for salvation through sanctification and belief (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Without holiness, no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14). There are those who profess faith in Christ and join the church who later abandon the faith and return to worldly living. A person who does that is giving evidence that he is not a Christian and never has been a Christian in the sense of having been in genuine covenant union with Christ and having experienced the new birth. As 1 John 2:19 says,


They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. The person who submits to water baptism but then returns to the mire of sinful living is but a washed pig who never experienced a spiritual change of nature (2 Peter 2:22). Paul, speaking in terms of the old covenant, explained that not all who are of Israel are truly Israel and that one can be a Jew outwardly without being a Jew inwardly. In John 15, Jesus referred to the covenant breaker as one who had outwardly been a branch on the Vine but who had never truly abode in the Vine as the source of life. Apart from the Vine, the branch cannot bear fruit and will be cut off in judgment (cf. Romans 11:17). Also, Christ referred to the covenant breaker in the parable of the soils. A plant in stony ground has no real depth of soil and spiritual root and thus cannot endure tribulation for the faith. A plant in thorny ground is choked by the thorns of love for the world and thus cannot bear spiritual fruit. The good ground plant, however, bears much fruit and cannot become a covenant breaker. Those who are truly born again will overcome the world and the devil does not touch them (1 John 5:4, 18). If a person who is truly and inwardly a child of God cannot lose his salvation, then why does God warn them against denying the faith and falling into sin? This is a good question. The answer is that God has ordained not only the ends but also the means unto the ends. And God uses warnings to keep His true people on the straight and narrow. An example of something similar is found in Acts 27. Paul was on a ship in a great storm, and an angel revealed to Paul that no life would be lost in the storm (vv. 23-24). Then some sailors sought to abandon the ship in the lifeboat, and Paul then warned the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved" (v. 31). As a result of this warning, the soldiers cut off the lifeboat and let it fall away, thus preventing any sailors from abandoning the ship. God used the warning to fulfill the promise He had given to Paul through the angel. Well, what about the apostasy passages? These passages do not contradict the doctrines of grace. Those who apostatize have never truly been saved. They may have outwardly been a member of God's 307

covenant community and may have experienced firsthand many of God's blessings. For example, Judas was one of the twelve who had been given the power to cast out demons, to heal the sick and to raise the dead. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of those whom He never savingly knew but who on judgment day will claim to have prophesied, cast out demons and done many wonders in Christ's name. And in Hebrews 6, the one who falls away is said to have partaken of the Holy Spirit and to have tasted the powers of the age to come. But none of these passages teach that the one who falls into apostasy was ever genuinely saved. With great opportunity comes great responsibility. Scripture teaches that if, after such an intimate exposure to God's covenant, one rejects the covenant to the point of deliberately and maliciously trampling under foot the blood of Christ, then the day of gospel opportunity ends (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26; 12:17). The judgment for apostasy is a divine abandonment to a seared conscience and a hardened heart. The apostate never was saved and never can be saved. There are many Scriptures which plainly state that all those who truly believe already possess everlasting life and will be kept in the faith by the power of God. I will close by listing a sampling of these: John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 10:28: And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. Romans 8:35-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor


depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. I Peter 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. CONCLUSION The doctrines of grace are certainly humbling. It is humbling to think that when I sin, the fault is totally mine, but if I do any good, the credit must go entirely to God. It is humbling to learn that there are doctrines that I will never fully understand because of my limitations as a finite creature. It is humbling to find out that but for the grace of God, I would still be in bondage to sin. It is humbling to discover that I found God only because He first found me. It is humbling to realize that I stand firm in the faith only because God keeps me from falling. These doctrines are very humbling, and perhaps that is why not all Christians accept them in spite of their strong and clear Biblical basis. In our theologizing, the temptation is to look for elements of human sovereignty in our deliverance, to theorize ways to hold God responsible for our mistakes, and to hope that there might not be some degree of truth in Satan's claim that man can be "as God" (Genesis 3:5). We have to mature in the faith and become familiar with Scripture before we overcome this temptation in our theologizing and sermonizing. But, as C.H. Spurgeon has pointed out, all true Christians pray in terms of the doctrines of grace. All true Christians pray in terms of divine sovereignty and human responsibility and never in terms of human sovereignty and divine culpability. We lower our eyes, beat our breast, and cry out, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" We never look God proudly in the eye and say, "God, I thank you that I am the man I am!" Allow me to leave you with Mr. Spurgeon's thoughts on this subject:


You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer -- for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying, "Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists. Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know that thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not -- that is the difference between me and them." That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out.


Chapter 14

Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace The Bible repeatedly and unapologetically underscores the fact that God does not change. In fact, He cannot change because He cannot improve on absolute perfection or decline in His eternally fixed nature. His person does not change: ―‗For I the Lord do not change‘‖ (Mal. 3:6). His plans do not change: ―The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations‖ (Ps. 33:11). His purpose does not change: ―So when God desired to show more convincingly … the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath‖ (Heb. 6:17). God does not change His mind: ―‗The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret‘‖ (1 Sam. 15:29); or His words: ―The Holy One of Israel … does not call back his words‖ (Isa. 31:1-2); or His calling: ―The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable‖ (Rom. 11:29; cf. Heb. 13:8; James 1:7). There are absolutely no changes in God, no variations, and no surprises (cf. Ps. 102:27). God does not increase or decrease. He does not improve or decline. He does not change due to some altered circumstances—there are no unforeseen emergencies to the One who is eternally all-knowing. His eternal purposes stand forever because He stands forever (Ps. 33:11). He does not react, He only acts—and He does so however He pleases (Ps. 115:3). From a human perspective, of course, God sometimes appears to change His plans or His actions based on what people do. But this is not so from God‘s viewpoint. Because He knows and always has known the future perfectly, having planned it according to His unalterable decree, He always acts in the way that He planned to act from eternity past. While men do not know how God will act, and are sometimes astonished as they see His sovereign plans unfold, God is never surprised. He continues to work as He always has, according to His eternal purpose and good pleasure (cf. Ps. 33:10-12; Isa. 48:14; Dan. 4:35; Col. 1:19-20).


With respect to mankind, God predetermined to redeem a people for His own glory. Nothing can thwart that plan (John 10:29; Rom. 8:38-39). Perfect knowledge, perfect uninfluenced freedom, and perfect limitless power to accomplish all He perfectly willed—absolute holiness and moral perfection binding Him to be truthful and faithful to His Word—mean that what God set out to do before time began, He is doing and will complete after time is gone. This sweeping, glorious intention of God has been revealed in the Bible and understood clearly through the history of the redeemed. The Word of God has disclosed it unmistakably, and since the completion of the canon of Scripture, all accurate interpreters of the Bible have believed and proclaimed the God-glorifying doctrine of sovereign, unchanging divine purpose. This truth, often called the doctrines of grace, began in the sovereign determination of God in eternity past. God cannot change, His Word cannot change, and His purpose cannot change. His truth is the same because He is the Truth (cf. Ps. 119:160; John 17:17; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). In contrast to the socalled Openness of God theology, which claims that God does not know the future and therefore must adapt to circumstances as they unfold, the Bible presents God as the all-knowing Sovereign of all events, past, present, and future. In the words of Isaiah 46: 9b-10: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Divine Justice and the Doctrine of Election In spite of the clarity with which Scripture addresses this topic, many professing Christians today struggle with acceptance of God‘s sovereignty—especially when it comes to His electing work in salvation. Their most common protest, of course, is that the doctrine of election is unfair. But such an objection stems from a human idea of fairness


rather than the objective, divine understanding of true justice. In order to appropriately address the issue of election, we must set aside all human considerations and focus on the nature of God and His righteous standard. Divine justice is where the discussion must begin. What is divine justice? Simply stated, it is an essential attribute of God whereby He infinitely, perfectly, and independently does exactly what He wants to do when and how He wants to do it. Because He is the standard of justice, by very definition, whatever He does is inherently just. As William Perkins said, many years ago, ―We must not think that God doeth a thing because it is good and right, but rather is the thing good and right because God willeth it and worketh it.‖ Therefore, God defines for us what justice is, because He is by nature just and righteous, and what He does reflects that nature. His free will—and nothing else—is behind His justice. This means that whatever He wills is just; and it is just, not because of any external standard of justice, but simply because He wills it. Because the justice of God is an outflow of His character, it is not subject to fallen human assumptions of what justice should be. The Creator owes nothing to the creature, not even what He is graciously pleased to give. God does not act out of obligation and compulsion, but out of His own independent prerogative. That is what it means to be God. And because He is God, His freely determined actions are intrinsically right and perfect. To say that election is unfair is not only inaccurate; it fails to recognize the very essence of true fairness. That which is fair, right, and just is that which God wills to do. Thus, if God wills to choose those whom He will save, it is inherently fair for Him to do so. We cannot impose our own ideas of fairness onto our understanding of God‘s working. Instead, we must go to the Scriptures to see how God Himself, in His perfect righteousness, decides to act. What Is the Doctrine of Election?


The idea that God does what He wants, and that what He does is true and right because He does it, is foundational to our understanding of everything in Scripture, including the doctrine of election. In the broad sense, election refers to the fact that God chooses (or elects) to do everything that He does in whatever way He sees fit. When He acts, He does so only because He willfully and independently chooses to act. According to His own nature, predetermined plan, and good pleasure, He decides to do whatever He desires, without pressure or constraint from any outside influence. The Bible makes this point repeatedly. In the act of Creation, God made precisely what He wanted to create in the way He wanted to create it (cf. Gen. 1:31). And ever since Creation, He has sovereignly prescribed or permitted everything in human history, in order that He might accomplish the redemptive plan that He previously had designed (cf. Isa. 25:1; 46:10; 55:11; Rom. 9:17; Eph. 3:8-11). In the Old Testament, He chose a nation for Himself. Out of all the nations in the world, He selected Israel (Deut. 7:6; 14:2; Pss. 105:43; 135:4). He chose the Israelites not because they were better or more desirable than any other people, but simply because He decided to choose them. In the words of Richard Wolf, ―How odd of God to choose the Jews.‖ It might not have rhymed as well, but the same would have been true of any other people God might have selected. God chooses whomever He chooses for reasons that are wholly His. The nation of Israel was not the only recipient in Scripture of God‘s electing choice. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called ―‗My Chosen One‘‖ (Luke 9:35). The holy angels also are referred to as ―elect angels‖ (1 Tim. 5:21). And New Testament believers are called ―God‘s chosen ones‖ (Col. 3:12; cf. 1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9; 5:13; Rev. 17:14), meaning that the church is a community of those who were chosen, or ―elect‖ (Eph. 1:4). When Jesus told His disciples, ―‗You did not choose me, but I chose you‘‖ (John 15:16), He was underscoring this truth. And the New Testament reiterates it in passage after passage. Acts 13:48b


describes salvation in these words: ―As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.‖ Ephesians 1:4-6 notes that God ―chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.‖ In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he knew God‘s choice of them (1 Thess. 1:4) and that he was thankful for them ―because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved‖ (2 Thess. 2:13). The Word of God is clear: believers are those whom God chose for salvation from before the beginning. The foreknowledge to which Peter refers (1 Peter 1:2) should not be confused with simple foresight. Some teach this view, contending that God, in eternity past, looked down the halls of history to see who would respond to His call and then elected the redeemed on the basis of their response. Such an explanation makes God‘s decision subject to man‘s decision, and gives man a level of sovereignty that belongs only to God. It makes God the One who is passively chosen rather than the One who actively chooses. And it misunderstands the way in which Peter uses the term foreknowledge. In 1 Peter 1:20, the apostle uses the verb form of that word, prognosis in the Greek, to refer to Christ. In that case, the concept of ―foreknowledge‖ certainly includes the idea of a deliberate choice. It is reasonable, then, to conclude that the same is true when Peter applies prognosis to believers in other places (cf. 1 Peter 1:2). The ninth chapter of Romans also reiterates the elective purposes of God. There, God‘s electing prerogative is clearly displayed in reference to His saving love for Jacob (and Jacob‘s descendants) as opposed to Esau (and Esau‘s lineage). God chose Jacob over Esau, not on the basis of anything Jacob or Esau had done, but according to His own free and uninfluenced sovereign purpose. To those who might protest, ―That is unfair!‖ Paul simply asks, ―Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?‖ (v. 20). Many more Scripture passages could be added to this survey. Yet as straightforward as the Word of God is, people continually have difficulty accepting the doctrine of election. The reason, again, is that 315

they allow their preconceived notions of how God should act (based on a human definition of fairness) to override the truth of His sovereignty as laid out in the Scriptures. Frankly, the only reason to believe in election is because it is found explicitly in God‘s Word. No man and no committee of men originated this doctrine. It is like the doctrine of eternal punishment in that it conflicts with the dictates of the carnal mind. It is repugnant to the sentiments of the unregenerate heart. Like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the miraculous birth of our Savior, the truth of election, because it has been revealed by God, must be embraced with simple and unquestioning faith. If you have a Bible and you believe it, you have no option but to accept what it teaches. The Word of God presents God as the controller and disposer of all creatures (Dan 4:35; Isa. 45:7; Lam. 3:38), the Most High (Pss. 47:2; 83:18), the ruler of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:19; Isa. 37:16), and the One against whom none can stand (2 Chron. 20:6; Job 41:10; Isa. 43:13). He is the Almighty who works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11; cf. Isa. 14:27; Rev. 19:6) and the heavenly Potter who shapes men according to His own good pleasure (Rom. 9:18-22). In short, He is the decider and determiner of every man‘s destiny, and the controller of every detail in each individual‘s life (Prov. 16:9; 19:21; 21:1; cf. Ex. 3:21-22; 14:8; Ezra 1:1; Dan. 1:9; James 4:15)—which is really just another way of saying, ―He is God.‖ Why Did God Determine to Elect the Redeemed? Though the doctrine of election applies to all that God does in a general sense, it most often refers, in a specific New Testament sense, to the election of sinners to become redeemed saints within the church. Divine election, in this particular regard, speaks of God‘s independent and predetermined choice of those whom He would save and place into the corporate body of Christ. God did not save certain sinners because they chose Him, but because He chose them. But why did God do this? Why did He sovereignly determine, from eternity past, to save a segment of fallen humanity that would make up a community of the redeemed? In order to answer this


question without wrongly interjecting our own preconceived notions, we must turn to the Word of God, for it is there that God has revealed His mind to us. Of course, as fallen human beings, we will never be able to fully comprehend the infinite wisdom of God in this regard (cf. Rom. 11:33-36). Nonetheless, the Scriptures give us several glimpses into the divine motivation behind election. Why, then, did God choose to save sinners? Divine Election and the Promise of God The answer begins with the promise of God. In Titus 1:2 we read: ―Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God‘s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.‖ In these verses the apostle Paul succinctly defines the fullness of salvation and ties it directly to the eternal promise of God. Salvation in its fullness consists of three primary parts— justification (the sinner‘s salvation at the moment of conversion from the penalty of sin through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ), sanctification (the sinner‘s ongoing salvation from the power of sin in this life), and glorification (the sinner‘s ultimate, complete salvation from the presence of sin in the life to come). As a minister of the gospel, Paul emphasized each of these aspects in his ministry. Because he understood justification, he preached the gospel ―for the sake of the faith of God‘s elect,‖ realizing that through the preaching of the truth, God would justify those whom He had chosen to save (cf. Rom. 10:14-15). Because he understood progressive sanctification, Paul sought to strengthen those who already had embraced the truth, edifying them through ―their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.‖ And because he understood glorification, Paul passionately reminded those under his care about the ―hope of eternal life‖—the climactic consummation of their salvation in Christ.


Paul preached the gospel of Christ with great clarity so the elect could hear and believe. When they believed, he taught them the truth so they could become godly; and he also unfolded for them the hope of eternal life, which gave them the encouragement and motivation they needed for faithful living. Having summarized salvation in three brief phrases, Paul ends verse 2 with these words: ―which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.‖ The apostle‘s point is that the whole unfolding miracle of salvation, which culminates in eternal life, is based on the absolute promise of our trustworthy God. The fact that God cannot lie is self-evident as well as scripturally attested (cf. Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; John 14:6, 17; 15:26). In fact, because God is the source and measure of all truth, it is, by definition, ―impossible for God to lie‖ (Heb. 6:18). Just as the Devil speaks lies ―‗out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies‘‖ (John 8:44), so it is that whenever God speaks, He speaks the truth from His own nature, because He is the Father of truth. This God of truth, who is the one true God, promised long ages ago that those whom He had chosen to be justified and sanctified in this life would certainly be glorified in the life to come. But the English phrase before the ages began does not simply refer to ancient human history. It is literally translated ―before time began,‖ and it means exactly that. To be sure, God reiterated His plan of salvation and eternal life to such godly men as Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets, but the original promise was made and ratified in eternity past (cf. Eph. 1:4-5; Heb. 13:20). It was before time began that He chose those who would embrace the faith (Titus 1:1) and promised to save them for all eternity (1:2). But to whom did God make this promise? If He made it before time began, then it could not have been made to any human being, or to any created being for that matter. Before the creation of time, nothing existed outside of God Himself. To whom, then, did He make this promise? Divine Election and the Love of the Father


Second Timothy 1:9 introduces us to the answer. Speaking of God, the verse says that He ―saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.‖ The phrase before the ages began is the English translation of the same Greek phrase rendered with the same words in Titus 1:2. Here, too, it literally means ―before time began.‖ In eternity past, before the dawn of history, God made the irrevocable decision to grant salvation to the redeemed. This is the promise of Titus 1:2, and it is a promise that God made according to His own independent purpose and grace. Put simply, it was a promise He made to Himself. More specifically, as we will see, it involved a promise from the Father to the Son. The plan of God from eternity past was to redeem a segment of fallen humanity through the work of the Son and for the glory of the Son (cf. 2 Tim. 4:18). There was a moment in eternity past (if we might so feebly speak of eternity in temporal terms) when the Father desired to express His perfect and incomprehensible love for the Son. To do this, He chose to give to the Son a redeemed humanity as a love gift—a company of men and women whose purpose would be, throughout all the eons of eternity, to praise and glorify the Son, and to serve Him perfectly. Angels alone would not suffice in this regard, as there are characteristics of the Son for which angels cannot properly praise Him, since they have never experienced redemption. But a redeemed humanity, as the direct recipients of His unmerited favor, would stand forever as an eternal testament to the infinite greatness of His mercy and grace. The Father therefore determined to give the Son a redeemed humanity as a visible expression of His infinite love. In so doing, He selected all those who would make up that redeemed humanity and wrote their names in the book of life before the world began (Rev. 13:8; 17:8). His gift to the Son is composed of those whose names are in that book—a joyous congregation of undeserving saints who will praise and serve the Son forever. The gospel of John makes this wonderful reality all the more clear. In John 6, for instance, Jesus plainly states that believers are a gift to Him from His Father. He tells His listeners, ―‗All that the Father 319

gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out‘‖ (v. 37). And later, ―‗No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him‘‖ (v. 44). In other words, the Father draws sinners in order that He might lovingly present them to the Son. All those who are drawn, come. All who come, the Son receives and embraces. They will never be turned away because the Son would never refuse those who are a gift from the Father. Salvation, then, does not come to sinners because they are inherently desirable, but because the Son is inherently worthy of the Father‘s gift. After all, the purpose of redemption is that the Son might be eternally exalted by the redeemed—it is not for the honor of the sinner but the honor of the Son. And Foundations of Grace 14 in response to the Father‘s love, the Son eagerly accepts those who are drawn, wholly because they are a gift from the Father whom He loves. It is His perfect gratitude that opens His arms to embrace the lost. In verse 39, Jesus says that what was promised by the Father is protected by the Son: ―‗This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.‘‖ When the Son receives those whom the Father draws, He keeps them safe, ensuring that they will be resurrected one day to everlasting life (cf. John 5:29). When the Son raises those who will worship Him eternally, He will fulfill the plan that God purposed in eternity past. As Jesus says in verse 38, ―‗I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will [not to fulfill some plan of my own] but the will of him who sent me.‘‖ That plan, as the Lord explains in verse 39, encompasses the future resurrection of all whom the Father has given Him. Without question, the doctrine of eternal security is inherent in this discussion because it is built into the plan. Christ protects those whom the Father has chosen. He will never lose any of them because they are love gifts to Him from the Father. They are precious, not because of their inherent loveliness, but because of the loveliness of the One who gave them. Therefore, the Son keeps them secure, which is why ―neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything


else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord‖ (Rom. 8:38-39). This profound truth is reiterated in John 17. With the cross only a few hours away, Jesus knew that He was about to experience a period of separation from the Father (cf. Matt. 27:46) in which He would bear the wrath of God for sin (cf. Isa. 53:10; 2 Cor. 5:21). Recognizing that He would not be able to protect His own in that moment, He entrusted their safekeeping to the very One who had given them to Him. In verses 9-15, Jesus beseeches His Father with these words: I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. In the context, Jesus is praying for His own who are in the world. He acknowledges that the redeemed are those whom the Father has given to Him, and He reiterates that He has been faithful in protecting and preserving them. But now, as He comes to the cross, He asks the Father to protect them in the moment when He will be unable to do so. In the one instance in all of redemptive history when there might be 321

potential for the evil one to interrupt the plan, the Son entrusts the redeemed to the watchful and loving care of His Father. As Jesus had earlier stated, ―‗My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father‘s hand‘‖ (John 10:29). The Son was confident that His own would be safe in the impenetrable grip of His Father. In verse 24, Jesus goes on to pray: ―‗Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.‘‖ Here the glorious point of the Father‘s love gift to the Son is unmistakable—that the Son‘s magnificent glory might be extolled and exalted by the redeemed. The Father‘s motivation in giving such a gift is also clear—that He might evidence the love that He had had for the Son from before the world was created. Clearly, there is an acute sense in which the doctrine of election is far beyond our finite capabilities to comprehend. We are caught up in intra-Trinitarian expressions of love that are unfathomable and inexpressible. And we are repeatedly reminded, as we are given small glimpses into the divine purpose behind election, that salvation is about something far greater than our own happiness. In Romans 8:29-30, we are given another inspired window into this immeasurable reality. Paul writes, ―For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.‖ Though much could be said about these verses, two points are of primary importance in regard to the doctrine of election. First, when God predestined us by His elective purpose, He did not merely predestine us to the beginning of our salvation; He predestined us to the end of it. We were not chosen just to be justified. We were chosen to be glorified. Paul‘s wording could not be more straightforward. What God started in election continues through calling and justification, and inevitably will result in glorification. The process, which is God‘s process, is fail-proof because He is the One behind it.


Second, not only is God saving a chosen, redeemed humanity that will glorify and serve the Son forever, He is making them like the Son. The redeemed in Christ will be conformed to His image, which is something that will not fully and finally take place until glorification (1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:20-21). It has been rightly said that imitation is the highest form of praise, for this will be the supreme tribute to the Son— He will be the Chief One among many who have been made like Him. They will reflect His goodness, because they will be like Him, and they will proclaim His greatness as they worship Him unceasingly for eternity. Divine Election and the Role of the Son In 1 Corinthians 15:25-28, we find a remarkable conclusion to this whole discussion. There Paul says, ―For he [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‗God has put all things in subjection under his feet.‘ But when it says, ‗all things are put in subjection,‘ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.‖ Referring to the end of the age, this passage reveals that there will come a day when Christ, the King of Kings, will take His rightful throne and reclaim the universe that is His. At that time, everything will be put into subjection to Him, including death, and all of the redeemed will be gathered into glory, rejoicing in the fullness of eternal worship. When all that is done, ―then the Son himself also will be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him [meaning the Father], that God may be all in all.‖ In other words, when the whole love gift of a redeemed humanity has been given to Jesus Christ, then He will take that redeemed humanity and, including Himself, give it all back to the Father as a reciprocal expression of the Father‘s infinite love. At that moment, the redemptive purposes of God will be fully realized. The doctrine of election, then, is at the very heart of redemptive history. It is not some insignificant, esoteric doctrine that can be


trivialized or relegated to seminary classroom debates. Rather, it is at the center of how we under- stand salvation and the church. It informs our evangelism, our preaching, and our identity as the body of Christ. It also helps us understand why Christ takes His bride, the church, so seriously—she is His love gift from the Father. The church is so precious to Him that He was willing to endure great trials and eventually death to receive the gift. ―Though he [the Son] was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich‖ (2 Cor. 8:9; cf. Phil. 2:5-11). He left infinite spiritual riches in order that His elect might inherit those same riches (cf. Rom. 8:17). He embraced the most profound poverty possible, divesting Himself of His heavenly comforts and the independent use of His divine attributes, choosing to embrace the penalty of sin through His sacrifice on the cross. As Paul explains, ―He [the Father] made him [the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God‖ (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus was guilty of nothing. Yet on the cross, the Father treated Him as if He had committed personally every sin ever committed by every individual who would ever believe. Though He was blameless, He faced the full fury of God‘s wrath, enduring the penalty of sin on behalf of those He came to save. In this way, the sinless Son of God became the perfect substitute for the sinful sons of men. As a result of Christ‘s sacrifice, the elect become the righteousness of God in Him. In the same way that the Father treated the Son as a sinner, even though the Son was sinless, the Father now treats believers as righteous, even though they were unrighteous. Jesus exchanged His life for sinners in order to fulfill the elective plan of God. And He did it so that, in the end, He might give back to the Father the love gift that the Father gave to Him. In contemplating these truths, we find ourselves catapulted into the immeasurable depths of the plans and purposes of God. As Paul exclaimed in Romans 11:33:36: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his


judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ―For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?‖ ―Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?‖ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. Awestruck and amazed, those who love God can only respond in heartfelt worship and humble submission. They must praise Him for His mercy, His grace, and His glorious purpose that planned it all from before time began. And they must submit themselves to His sovereignty, not only in the universe at large, but also in the smallest details of their daily lives. Such is their role as part of the love gift from the Father to the Son. To worship and to serve is what they were intended to do from eternity past. And it is what they will continue to do perfectly in the ineffable joy of eternal glory. The reality, then, is that believers are simply a small part of a much larger divine plan. The Father, because of His love for the Son, determined before time began to choose a redeemed community that would praise the Son for all eternity. And the Son, because of His love for the Father, accepted this love- gift from the Father, considering it precious to the point that He gave His life for it. The Son protects those whom the Father chose to give Him, and promises to bring them to glory according to the predetermined plan of God. The Long Line of Godly Men History is the unfolding of this plan of God—as those whom He chose are called, justified, and glorified through the Person and work of the Son. History began when God created time and space according to His eternal redemptive plan. And it will end when all of His purposes for His creation are accomplished according to that same eternal plan.


Chapter 15 Covenant Theology Introduction Covenant theology is important for many reasons. Though covenant theology has been around for millennia, it finds its more refined and systematic formulation in the Protestant Reformation. Covenant theology seeks to present a clear picture of the unity of redemption, which unity is seen in the continuity of the covenants that God has given throughout history and how they are fulfilled in the person and work of Christ. Every written document has a structure or format by which it is organized. Paragraphs have subjects and chapters have focal points. Reformed theology sees the primary structure of biblical revelation as that of covenant. This is the structure by which the entire history of redemption is worked out. Reformed theology has been nicknamed ―Covenant theology,‖ which distinguishes it from a relatively new theology that first emerged in the mid-nineteenth century called ―dispensationalism.‖ Like Covenant theology, dispensational theology sought a key that would unlock the proper structure of biblical interpretation. Unlike Reformed theology, dispensationalists see God as dealing with the human race in different ways at different times, and, more specifically, testing man‘s obedience to the will of God differently during seven distinct ―dispensations.‖ Additionally, one of the most significant features of dispensationalism is that dispensationalists see God as pursuing two distinct purposes throughout history, one related to an earthly goal and an earthly people (the Jews), the other to heavenly goals and a heavenly people (the church). Dispensationalism, as you would expect, leads to a variety of unique interpretations that are sometimes radically different from traditional Reformed theology. Indeed, I believe it leads to significant,


even crucial theological errors. After initially and unknowingly learning the dispensationalist view as a young Christian, I have, over the years, become rationally convinced of the superiority of the classic Reformed view. As such, rather than critiquing dispensationalism, I seek here to explain the essence of Covenant theology as clearly and concisely as possible. Reformed theology knows nothing of different testing periods or different redemptive agendas for Israel and the church. The Westminster Confession makes it clear that in Reformed theology, the way of salvation in the Old Testament is substantially the same as in the New Testament. Redemption is always through grace by faith. In the Old Testament faith was directed forward to the promised future Redeemer, while in the New Testament faith is directed backward to the redemptive work of Christ, which has been accomplished in history. Covenant theology is structured around three covenants – the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The last two will be considered together for the sake of clarity. The first covenant we consider does not directly include human beings, but is nevertheless critically important. The Covenant of Redemption: Blueprint of Redemption To understand how the Bible as a whole works, we need to understand this riddle: The invisible is more substantial than the visible. The future comes before the past. The new is more fundamental than the old. What does all this mean? Simply put, time future was already prepared for in time past. So it is in the Gospel. God has a plan. It has been called the covenant of redemption, or the covenant of peace (pactum salutis). Theologians as great as Thomas Boston and Jonathan Edwards have disagreed as to whether the plan should properly be described as a covenant at all. But the debates over nomenclature are incidental to the thing itself.


The triune God had a plan, involving the mutual commitment of Father, Son and Spirit to save a people. About this the reformed theologians speak with one voice. The Bible has much to say about God‘s activity ―before‖ the world was made. The Bible speaks often of God‘s eternal counsel, of His plan of salvation and the like. It is a matter of theological urgency that Christians not think of God as a ruler who ad libs His dominion of the universe. God does not ―make it up as He goes along.‖ Nor must He be viewed as a bumbling administrator who is so inept in His planning that His blueprint for redemption must be endlessly subject to revision according to the actions of men. The God of Scripture has no ―plan b‖ or ―plan c.‖ His ―plan a‖ is from everlasting to everlasting. It is both perfect and unchangeable as it rests on God‘s eternal character, which is among other things, holy, omniscient, and immutable. God‘s eternal plan is not revised because of moral imperfections within it that must be purified. His plan was not corrected or amended because He gained new knowledge that He lacked at the beginning. God‘s plan never changes because He never changes and because perfection admits to no degrees and cannot be improved upon. The covenant of redemption is intimately concerned with God‘s eternal plan. It is called a ―covenant‖ inasmuch as the plan involves two or more parties. This is not a covenant between God and humans. It is a covenant among the persons of the Godhead, specifically between the Father and the Son. God did not become triune at creation or at the Incarnation. His triunity is as eternal as His being. He is one in essence and three in person from all eternity. The covenant of redemption is a corollary to the doctrine of the Trinity. Like the word trinity, the Bible nowhere explicitly mentions it. The word trinity does not appear in the Bible, but the concept of the Trinity is affirmed throughout Scripture. Likewise, the phrase ―covenant of redemption‖ does not occur explicitly in Scripture but the concept is heralded throughout. Central to the message of Jesus is the declaration that He was sent into the world by the Father. His mission was not given to Him at His baptism or in the manger. He had it before His incarnation.


In the great ―Kenotic Hymn‖ of Philippians 2, we get a glimpse of this: ―Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father‖ (vv. 5–11 NKJV). This passage reveals many things. It speaks of the willingness of the Son to undertake a mission of redemption at the behest of the Father. That Jesus was about doing the will of the Father is testified throughout His life. As a young boy in the temple He reminded His earthly parents that He must be about His Father‘s business. His meat and drink was to do the will of His Father. It was zeal for His Father‘s house that consumed Him. Repeatedly He declared that He spoke not on His own authority but on the authority of the One who sent Him. Jesus is the primary missionary. As the word suggests, a missionary is one who is ―sent.‖ The eternal Word did not decide on His own to come to this planet for its redemption. He was sent here. In the plan of salvation the Son comes to do the Father‘s bidding. The point of the covenant of redemption is that the Son comes willingly. He is not coerced by the Father to relinquish His glory and be subjected to humiliation. Rather, He willingly ―made Himself of no reputation.‖ The Father did not strip the Son of His eternal glory but the Son agreed to lay it aside temporarily for the sake of our salvation. Listen to Jesus as He prays to the Father at the end of His ministry: ―Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You… And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was‖ (John17:1-5 NKJV). The covenant of redemption was a transaction that involved both obligation and reward. The Son entered into a


sacred agreement with the Father. He submitted Himself to the obligations of that covenantal agreement. An obligation was likewise assumed by the Father — to give His Son a reward for doing the work of redemption. In his systematic theology, Charles Hodge lists eight promises the Father gave to the Son in this pact made in eternity. Briefly they are: that God would form a purified Church for His Son; that the Son would receive the Spirit without measure; that He would be ever-present to support Him; that He would deliver Him from death and exalt Him to His right hand; that He would have the Holy Spirit to send to whom He willed; that all the Father gave to Him would come to Him and none of these be lost; that multitudes would partake of His redemption and His messianic kingdom; that He would see the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Because God honored the eternal covenant of redemption, Christ became the heir of His Father‘s promises. Because this covenant was never violated, we reap its benefits as heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. From one point of view, of course, the Old Testament serves as the model of what Christ would come to accomplish. But the New Testament book of Hebrews teaches us never to lose sight of the fact that the priesthood, sacrifices, liturgy and life of the Old Testament church are simply a rough copy. Christ is the original; He is the antitype, the pictures of the Old Testament form the type. This principle is given its clearest expression in Hebrews 9:23 which refers to the Old Testament tabernacle, priesthood and sacrifices as ―the copies of the heavenly things.‖ Yet more picturesquely, Hebrews 10:1 describes the law as ―but a shadow of the good things to come.‖ Copies depend on an original; a shadow does not exist apart from the person whose shadow it is and from whom it takes its shape. Hebrews works this idea out in a fascinating series of ways. The new covenant shapes the old that prepares for it and gives indications of its character and significance. The result is that the old prepares for the new and gives hints of what it will be like.


The Priesthood of Christ is the true priesthood which is foreshadowed in the Aaronic priesthood. The inner meaning of the sacrifice of Christ is expressed in a fragmentary way in the Mosaic sacrificial system. But it is clear that these copies are simply that — shadows, hints, outlines — and no more. The daily repetition of priestly sacrificial ministry at the altar, the obvious inadequacy of an animal‘s blood to deal with the blood-guilt of a human being — are hints that this arrangement, although divinely commanded, is not the final one. Something lies beyond it, to which it points; there is a greater, more enduring, more satisfying reality yet to come (Heb. 11:39-12:3). Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing ―outside of‖ God himself; when the Father, Son and Spirit found eternal, absolute and unimaginable blessing, pleasure and joy in their holy triunity — it was their agreed purpose to create a world which would fall, and in unison — but at infinitely great cost — to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation. This deeper grace from before the dawn of time — pictured in the rituals, the leaders and the experiences of the Old Testament saints (cf. Heb. 11:39-12:3) — is now ours. These are the dimensions of what the author of Hebrews calls ―such a great salvation‖ (Heb. 2:3). Our salvation depends on God‘s covenant, rooted in eternity in the plan of the Trinity, foreshadowed in the Mosaic covenant, fulfilled in Christ, enduring forever. No wonder Hebrews calls it ―great.‖ The Covenant of Works and The Covenant of Grace Historic covenantal theology makes an important distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The covenant of works refers to the covenant that God made with Adam and Eve in their pristine purity before the fall, in which God promised them blessedness contingent upon their obedience to His command. After the fall, the fact that God continued to promise redemption to creatures who had failed to keep the covenant of works, that ongoing promise of redemption is defined by Reformed theology as the covenant of grace.


Technically, from one perspective, all covenants that God makes with the human race are gracious in the sense that He is not obligated to make any promises to His creatures. But the distinction between the covenant of works and grace is getting at something that is of vital importance, as it has to do with the Gospel. The covenant of grace indicates God‘s promise to save us despite our failure to keep the obligations imposed by the covenant of works. This is seen most importantly in the work of Jesus as the new Adam. Again and again the New Testament makes the distinction and contrast between the failure and calamities wrought upon humanity through the disobedience of the original Adam and the benefits that flow through the work of the obedience of Jesus, who is the new Adam. Though there is a clear distinction between the new Adam and the old Adam, the point of continuity between them is that both were called to submit to perfect obedience to God. When we understand Christ‘s work of redemption in the New Testament, we focus our attention largely on two aspects of it. On the one hand, we look at the atonement. It‘s clear from the New Testament teachings that in the atonement Jesus bears the sins of His people and is punished for them in our place. That is, the atonement is vicarious and substitutionary. Beyond the negative fulfillment of the covenant of works, in taking the punishment due those who disobey it, Jesus also offers the positive dimension that is vital to our redemption. Where Adam was the covenant breaker, Jesus is the covenant keeper. Where Adam failed to gain the blessedness of the tree of life, Christ wins that blessedness by His obedience, which blessedness He provides for those who put their trust in Him. His life of perfect obedience (sometimes called ―active obedience‖) becomes the sole ground of our justification. That is, it is His perfect righteousness, gained via His perfect obedience, that is imputed to all who put their trust in Him. If we take away the covenant of works, which is what happens in dispensationalism, we take away the active obedience of Jesus. If we take away the active obedience of Jesus, we take away the imputation of His righteousness to us. If we take away the imputation of Christ‘s


righteousness to us, we take away justification by faith alone. If we take away justification by faith alone, we take away the Gospel, and we are left in our sins. We are left as the miserable sons of Adam, who can only look forward to feeling the full measure of God‘s curse upon us for our own disobedience. It is the obedience of Christ that is the ground of our salvation, both in His passive obedience on the cross and His active obedience in His life. All of this is inseparably related to the biblical understanding of Jesus as the new Adam (Rom. 5:12-20), who succeeded where the original Adam failed, who prevailed where the original Adam lost. There is nothing less than our salvation at stake in this issue. To put this another way, there are two operative principles in the Bible: (1) ―Do this and live‖ (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 2:13; 10:5) and (2) ―Trust in the mediator to do it for us‖ (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 10:6; Galatians 3:11). The first principle is what we have been referring to as ―the covenant of works‖ and the second ―the covenant of grace‖. The second is possible because the mediator fulfilled the first. John Calvin once said, ―The person who wants to be justified by works must do more than produce just a few good deeds. He must bring with him perfect obedience to the Law. And those who have outstripped all others and have progressed the most in the Law of the Lord are still very far from this perfect obedience." From beginning to end the Bible has clearly indicated that perfect law-keeping is required to merit eternal life. But the law brings death because we have all failed to keep it, save for Jesus Christ who was "born under the law" and fulfilled its righteous requirements on our behalf. Christ‘s willing obedience to bear all the sanctions imposed by that law for His people‘s transgression is the ground of God‘s justification of sinners (Rom. 5:9), an act of Christ by which act they are forgiven. And His perfect obedience to all the prescriptions of the divine law makes available a perfect righteousness before the law that is counted toward those who put their trust in him.


The perfect obedience that God required of mankind via the covenant of works is, after the fall, impossible for any of us and would lead only to despair. When the lawyer asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment, Jesus said it was to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love your neighbor as ourselves. Knowing this answer intellectually and being able to do it are not the same. In fact, none of us come close to keeping either of these summaries of the law, but woefully come up short every hour of our life. At this point, remember that Paul declares that the primary purpose of the divine law is not to show our ability if we try hard enough, but to reveal our sin ―through the law comes knowledge of sin‖ (Rom 3:19, 20). So, apart from the work of Jesus Christ, because of our woefully inadequate lawkeeping, we all justly deserve the law‘s curses. It is only because of Jesus Christ that we are not under a curse for failing to keep God‘s holy law. In Galatians 3:13 Paul says, ―Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.‖ Apart from absolute perfection we are under a curse from the law. So how do we become righteous? Let us have a look at 2 Corinthians 5:21: ―He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.‖ This is a great summary of the gospel on two important levels: both the forgiveness of our sins (by absorbing the wrath of God for our failure to keep the law) and the imputation of Christ‘s righteousness to us (because of His perfect obedience to the law). Notice how closely Paul joined Christ‘s sinlessness together with our righteousness in Him. This righteousness is not simply because Jesus was inherently righteous from eternity, but because of his perfect obedience as a human being to God‘s law, not for himself, but on our behalf so he could truly represent us from our side as a man before God. Let us expand on this matter a little. What does Paul mean by the phrase ―He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf‖? Paul means that God made Jesus Christ to bear the full brunt of the pain, burden and curse of our sin. He


redeemed us from the curse of the law by being a curse in our place. The expression ―He made him sin‖ emphasizes the fullness of our sins being placed upon Jesus, our substitute. All the sins that we have ever committed were laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ. On the cross Jesus became the very embodiment of sin. He was no sinner in Himself and so could qualify as a human being to be a substitute in our place. As our representative as the last Adam he bore our sins in His own body hanging on the tree. ―The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all‖ (Isa 53:6). All of our sin was charged to Jesus Christ … who paid our penalty in full … all of our debts being cancelled. What does Paul mean by the phrase ―becoming the righteousness of God?‖ Many assume this means the righteousness which God requires of us. That in order to be received by God we must perfectly keep his holy law. This would be correct since God will damn those who do not come before him with perfect righteousness. God does require this perfect righteousness from us, but, in the gospel this is also the righteousness which He provides to us in Christ. Thanks be to God, for none of us would have the least glimmer of hope if we had to provide it ourselves. That is, God credits to us, imputes to us, the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus perfectly lived out and fulfilled the requirements for that righteousness. Then God imputes that perfect righteousness to us, which we receive from Christ through faith. In other words, those who are trusting in Christ as their Savior are credited with that perfect righteousness by which God is well pleased. We stand before God just as righteous as God‘s Son Jesus who perfectly kept the law in absolute holiness. How does Christ‘s perfect righteousness come to us? Answer: ―In Him‖. We are joined or united to Christ. Just as we entered this world united to the first Adam (dead in trespasses and sin), so now by grace through faith we are united to Jesus Christ, the second Adam. Just as Adam was our representative in the garden so Jesus was our representative, both in His perfect life of law-keeping and in His death on the cross. In other words, He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. Indeed, everything that Jesus did in His entire incarnate life and death, He did as our representative and


substitute; it is ―imputed‖, ―counted‖, ―reckoned‖ to those who place their faith in Him. As we are joined to Him by faith, we benefit, not only from His death on the cross but also from His incarnate life. So our ―becoming the righteousness of God‖ is received in our union to Christ and is the righteousness we receive by faith ―that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.‖ Phil 3:8-9. Thus, as clearly stated in 2 Cor. 5:21, it means that God takes our sin and charges it to Christ, and takes Christ‘s perfect righteousness and credits it to us. God not only washes us clean from our sin but clothes us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus must represent us in both His life and death. The result of these reciprocal imputations is called justification. Thus, you are credited with the perfect righteousness of Christ just as if you had always obeyed. And, just as if you had born the penalty of your own sin on the cross, Christ is credited with your sin. Therefore, in light of the promise of life given to us if we obey God's law (Matt 19:17), we can only cast aside all pride, conceit and self-righteousness for having fallen woefully short of its demands. But now that the law has done its job of showing us our sin and spiritual poverty, the gospel then opens our heart to the promise of life through trusting the One who did obey the whole law, simultaneously fulfilling the covenant from our side and baring the covenant curses in our stead. Everyone is in covenant with God and the sanctions are according to which covenant you are in. Covenants are the architectural framework, the superstructure of the Bible. And that is all that is meant by the term ―Covenant Theology‖. But, ultimately, covenant theology is just a tool for studying biblical theology because covenants are found everywhere in the Bible. It is not the center, not the heart of the Bible. The heart of the Bible is Christ. That‘s why we call our faith ―Christianity‖! Many scholars have tried to discover what is at the center of biblical theology. Some of the proposed centers for biblical theology


are God, Israel, covenant, creation, kingdom, salvation, new creation, and so forth. None of these are the center of the Bible though. They lose their meaning without Christ. If there is no Christ, there is no kingdom to talk about. The diversity of the Bible is unified in Christ. He is the center that holds all of the biblical data together. Thus, while the covenants discussed in this section might rightly explain the vehicle by which God relates to his people, it must be remembered that the fullest expression of God and His glory come in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and this is the only reason why covenants are important. They teach us about Him.


Chapter 16 Pensées This final chapter is actually a collection of various topics that are linked primarily by their brevity. As such, I‘ve chosen the chapter title in order to pay homage to the historic book of the same name. The original Pensées (literally, "thoughts") represented a defense of the Christian religion by Blaise Pascal, the renowned 17th century philosopher and mathematician. Pascal's religious conversion led him into a life of asceticism, and the Pensées was in many ways his life's work. The famous ―Pascal‘s Wager‖ is found here. The Pensées is in fact a name given posthumously to his fragments, which he had been preparing for an Apology for the Christian Religion which was never completed. Although the Pensées appears to consist of ideas and jottings, some of which are incomplete, it is believed that Pascal had, prior to his death in 1662, already planned out the order of the book and had begun the task of cutting and pasting his draft notes into a coherent form. Unfortunately, those responsible for his effects failed to recognize the basic structure of the work and handed them over to be edited in the wrong order when they were first published in 1669. Indeed, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that scholars began to understand Pascal's intention. The original layout of the individual notes was in fact recorded in position, but colleagues of Pascal who edited his notes after his death switched the order of the book's two main sections. Early editions led off with the traditional Christian content, leaving Pascal's reflections on the human condition until the end. The structure of the Apology Pascal intended is best described by H. F. Stewart, D.D. in the preface to his translation of the Pensées: Part I shows "from Nature" that man is wretched without God; Part II shows "from Scripture" that Jesus is the Redeemer of mankind. Part I subdivides into I(a) (man without God) and I(b) (man with God) to show man's inherent wretchedness. The themes of Part I are largely in the tone of ―vanitas mundi‖ [Vanity of


vanities, all is vanity], after the tradition of the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, while the many short maxims inserted into the text are reminiscent of the Book of Proverbs.


God Is Holy: The Heart of Reality It is important to note that the shallowness of modern life derives not from its banality but from its having lost its moral bearings. Our Age like every age that has preceded it, interrogates the unknown with its own questions—questions that grow out of its needs and interests. Our questions today hardly ever go to the heart of moral reality, because modern life is hardly ever about moral concern. Christ seems to offer little of what this world is asking for. It wants whatever is new; it looks for the next step in the journey of the human spirit. Christ did bring to completion much that was predicted or prophesied in the Old Testament, but he introduced few new ideas, and none that would suggest that the human spirit is embarked on a journey. Rather, he brought access to the world of moral reality from which sinners are alienated, and that is everything. He brought everything in himself, for he is God. More than that even, Christ brought everything into harmony with the holiness of God. To be sure, this harmony has two entirely different expressions: justification and judgment. In both, the holiness of God comes into its full and awful expression. In the one case, it does so in him who bears the consequences of that wrath on behalf and in the place of those whom he represented; in the other case, it is expressed in the final and awesome alienation of those in whom God's judgment vindicates for all eternity his holiness. It is this holiness of God, then, without which the Cross of Christ is incomprehensible, that provides the light that exposes modernity's darkness for what it is. For modernity has emptied life of serious moral purpose. Indeed, it empties people of the capacity to see the world in moral terms, and this, in turn, closes their access to reality, for reality is fundamentally moral. God's holiness is fundamental to who he is and what he has done. And the key to it all has been the loss of God's otherness, not least in his holiness, beneath the forms of modern piety. Evangelicals turned from focusing on God's transcendence to focusing on his immanence [pervading all creation]-and then they took the further step of interpreting his immanence as friendliness with modernity.


The loss of the traditional vision of God as holy is now manifested everywhere in the evangelical world. It is the key to understanding why sin and grace have become such empty terms. What depth or meaning, P. T. Forsyth asked, can these terms have except in relation to the holiness of God? Divorced from the holiness of God, sin is merely self-defeating behavior or a breach in etiquette. Divorced from the holiness of God, grace is merely empty rhetoric, pious window dressing for the modern technique by which sinners work out their own salvation. Divorced from the holiness of God, our gospel becomes indistinguishable from any of a host of alternative self-help doctrines. Divorced from the holiness of God, our public morality is reduced to little more than an accumulation of trade-offs between competing private interests. Divorced from the holiness of God, our worship becomes mere entertainment. The holiness of God is the very cornerstone of Christian faith, for it is the foundation of reality. Sin is defiance of God's holiness, the Cross is the outworking and victory of God's holiness, and faith is the recognition of God's holiness. Knowing that God is holy is therefore the key to knowing life as it truly is, knowing Christ as he truly is, knowing why he came, and knowing how life will end. It is this God, majestic and holy in his being, this God whose love knows no bounds because his holiness knows no limits, who has disappeared from the modern evangelical world. He has been replaced in many quarters by a God who is slick and slack, whose moral purposes turn out to be friendly advice that we can disregard or negotiate as we see fit, whose Word is a plaything for those who wish merely to listen to themselves, whose Church is a mall in which the religious, their pockets filled with the coin of need, do their business. We seek happiness, not righteousness. We want to be fulfilled, not filled. We are interested in satisfaction, not a holy dissatisfaction with all that is wrong. This is why we need reformation rather than revival. The habits of the modern world, now so ubiquitous [exists throughout] in the evangelical world, need to be put to death, not given new life. They need to be rooted out, not simply papered over with fresh religious enthusiasm. And they are by this point so invincible that nothing less 341

than the intrusion of God in his grace, nothing less than a full recovery of his truth, will suffice. In this regard, the death of theology has profound ramifications. Theology is dying not because the academy has failed to devise adequate procedures for reconstructing it but because the Church has lost its capacity for it. And while some hail this loss as a step forward toward the hope of new evangelical vitality, it is in fact a sign of creeping death. The emptiness of evangelical faith without theology echoes the emptiness of modern life. Both have elected to cross over into a world in which God has no place, in which reality has been rewritten, in which Christ has become redundant, his Word irrelevant, and the Church must now find new reasons for its existence. Unless the evangelical Church can recover the knowledge of what it means to live before a holy God, unless in its worship it can relearn humility, wonder, love, and praise, unless it can find again a moral purpose in the world that resonates with the holiness of God and that is accordingly deep and unyielding—unless the evangelical Church can do all of these things, theology will have no place in its life. But the reverse is also true. If the Church can begin to find a place for theology by refocusing itself on the centrality of God, if it can rest upon his sufficiency, if it can recover its moral fiber, then it will have something to say to a world now drowning in modernity. And there lies a great irony. Those who are most relevant to the modern world are those most irrelevant to the moral purpose of God, but those who are irrelevant in the world by virtue of their relevance to God actually have the most to say to the world. They are, in fact, the only ones who having anything to say to it. That is what Jesus declared, what the Church in its best moments has known, and what we, by the grace of God, can yet again discover.


Saving Faith When Martin Luther declared that justification is by faith alone, serious questions arose about the nature of saving faith. Rome appealed to James 2:24 to repudiate the Reformation doctrine: ―You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.‖ At first glance it seems that the Bible could not contradict the doctrine of justification by faith alone more clearly than this. Then we read Paul‘s words in Romans: ―Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.‖ (Rom. 3:27-28) On one hand, James says a man is justified by works and not by faith only. On the other, Paul says we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. The problem is exacerbated when we see that both James and Paul appeal to Abraham to prove their points. Though both Paul and James use the same Greek word for ―justify,‖ they are not using it in the same sense. They are dealing with different matters. Paul is clearly expounding the doctrine of justification, making it clear that it is by faith, not works. He appeals to Genesis 15, where Abraham is counted righteous by God the moment he believes. Paul argues that Abraham was justified before he performed any works of obedience. James appeals to Genesis 22, where Abraham offers Isaac on the altar. Here Abraham is ―justified,‖ but in another sense. The question James is addressing is found earlier in chapter 2: ―What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?‖ (James 2:14) James is asking what kind of faith is saving faith. He makes it clear that no one is justified by a mere profession of faith. Anyone can say he has faith. But saying it and having it are not the same thing. True faith always manifests itself in works. If no works follow from faith, then the alleged faith is ―dead‖ and useless. Abraham


demonstrated his faith by his works. He ―showed‖ he had true faith, thus ―justifying‖ his claim to faith. Abraham‘s profession of faith is vindicated in his demonstration of faith in Genesis 22. Paul argues that Abraham was already justified before God in Genesis 15 because he had true faith. Abraham did not need to prove the authenticity of his faith to God. God is able to read the heart. We are not. The only way I can see another person‘s faith is by observing his works. At issue here is the question of genuine faith. The Reformers taught ―justification by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.‖ True faith is never alone. It always manifests itself in works. Works that flow out of faith, however, are in no way the ground of our justification. They contribute nothing of merit before God. The only ground or basis of our justification is the merit of Christ. Nor is faith itself a meritorious work or the ground of our justification. Faith is a gift of God‘s grace, so it possesses no merit of its own. Like James, Luther opposed antinomianism. Saving faith is not dead. It is vital or living faith (fides viva). Live faith produces real works. If no works follow from our profession of faith, this proves that our faith is not alive, but is what Calvin called an ―imaginary semblance.‖ Luther‘s sinual iustus et peccator (simultaneously just and sinner) is open to misunderstanding if this point is not made clear. Though we are justified and counted righteous before we are righteous in ourselves and while we are still sinners, we are nevertheless sinners who are in the process of becoming righteous. Our sanctification begins the moment we have faith and are justified. We must remember that a justified person is a changed person. One who has real faith is regenerate and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. The effect of this change is not only necessary and inevitable, but immediate. If no fruit follows, then no faith is present. If no faith is present, then there is no justification.


For Rome justification is the result of faith plus works. In Reformed theology justification is the result of faith alone, a faith that always produces works. Antinomianism teaches justification by faith minus works. Reformed theology rejects both the Roman and the antinomian views. Early Reformed theologians customarily distinguished among various elements or aspects of saving faith. For the most part they discerned three chief aspects known as notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Notitia refers to the content of saving faith. Faith has an object. It is not empty or a faith in nothing. Christianity rejects the maxim, ―It doesn‘t matter what you believe if only you are sincere.‖ Though sincerity is a virtue, it is possible to be sincerely wrong and to put your faith in something or someone that cannot save. People can sincerely worship or have faith in idols. Such faith is repugnant to God and cannot save. Certain information must be known, understood, and believed in order to have saving faith. For example, we must believe in God and in the person and work of Jesus to be saved. This is the data (notae) of faith. Without belief in the essentials of Christianity, saving faith is absent. In addition to this data or content, one must also assent mentally (assensus) to the truth of this information. Saving faith gives intellectual assent to the truth of Christ‘s deity, atonement, resurrection, and so forth. We do not believe in what we believe to be a myth. If we reject the truth claims of the gospel, we cannot be justified. The presence of both notitia and assensus is still insufficient for justification. Even the devil has these elements. Satan is aware of the data of the gospel and is more certain of their truth than we are. Yet he hates and despises the truth of Christ. He will not rely on Christ or his righteousness because he is the enemy of Christ. The elements of notitia and assensus are necessary conditions for justification (we cannot be justified without them), but they are not sufficient conditions. A third element must be present before we possess the faith that justifies.


The element is fiducia, a personal trust and reliance on Christ, and on him alone, for one‘s justification. Fiducia also involves the affections. By the power of the Holy Spirit the believer sees, embraces, and acquiesces in the sweetness and loveliness of Christ. Saving faith loves the object of our faith, Jesus himself. This element is so crucial to the debate over justification. If a sinner relies on his own works or on a combination of his righteousness and that of Christ, then he is not trusting in the gospel.


Free to be a Slave Being a slave of Christ may be the best way to define a Christian. As believers, we have been set free to be slaves to Christ, slaves to righteousness. Unfortunately, you would never discern our slave status based on the language of contemporary Christianity. It is about liberation. It is about health, wealth, prosperity, finding your own purpose, fulfilling your own dream. We often hear that God loves you unconditionally and wants you to be all you want to be. He wants to fulfill every ambition, every desire, every hope, and every dream. Personal fulfillment, personal liberation, personal satisfaction, all bound up in the phrase, ―a personal relationship‖. How many times have we heard that the gospel offers people a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? What exactly does that mean? Satan has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and it‘s not a very good one. Every living being has a personal relationship with the living God of one kind or another, leading to one end or another: mercy or justice. So what is the believer‘s relationship to Christ? How are we best to understand it? Biblically speaking, you are a slave of Jesus Christ. You are owned. You have been purchased by His blood. You have been bought, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1819). You have been purchased (Rev. 5:9). You have no independent rights. You belong to Jesus Christ and you are to conduct your earthly slavery in a way that honors Him. Understood correctly, the gospel is an invitation to slavery. When we call people to faith in Christ, we need to stress that fact in the same way Jesus did. On the one hand, the gospel is a proclamation of freedom to sin‘s captives and liberty to people who are broken by the bondage of sin‘s power over them. On the other hand, it is a summons to a whole different kind of slavery: ―Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness‖ (Romans 6:18). As the apostle Peter wrote, ―Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God‖ (1 Peter 2:16).


Both sides of the equation are vital. There is a glorious freedom in being the slaves of Christ, because ―if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed‖ (John 8:36). On the other hand, being a true follower of Christ means the end of human autonomy. And that is as it should be, because self-determination turns out to be nothing more than an illusion anyway. The only kind of liberty it offers is ―free[dom] in regard to righteousness‖ (Romans 6:20)—and that is the very essence of bondage to sin. Its inevitable end is death and destruction. If we want true liberty from sin and all its fruits, it‘s not autonomy that we need, but a different kind of bondage: complete surrender to the lordship of Christ. In other words, everyone serves some master. No one is truly independent and self-governing. We are all enslaved in one way or the other. In the words of the apostle Paul: Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (Romans 6:16-21) No message can rightly be called the gospel if it glosses over or denies those truths. The gospel according to Jesus calls sinners to give up their independence, deny themselves, submit to an alien will, and abandon all rights in order to be owned by and controlled by the Lord. By confessing Jesus as Lord (Kurios), we automatically confess that we are His slaves (douloi).


So what does this mean in practical terms? To borrow the words of Edwin Yamauchi: It means that we have been captured, beaten, and enslaved. We discover, however, that our captor is a Despot of love and mercy. Neither is there anything slavish or servile about our slavehood, for we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear but the spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15). Nor has our reduction to slavery been a debasement or an abasement. . . . We have been elevated to serve in a heavenly court and have been invested with a higher nature. . . [It also] reminds us of our ransom from another master at an incredible price. It was not with the fabulous sums of all the royal estates we were bought, nor was it for handsome features or some prized skill we were purchased. But rather unlovely, without any merit, rebellious at heart, we were redeemed with the precious blood of the Master Himself. Having thus been bought by Christ we are entirely His. Being a slave to Christ is the definition of being a Christian. There‘s no other possible way to view it.


The Trinity: Triune Monarchy The most basic affirmation the Scriptures make regarding the nature of God is that He is one. The shema of Deuteronomy 6 reads as follows: ―Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one‖ (v. 4). These words that preface the great commandment are axiomatic to the biblical understanding of the nature of God. Old and New Testaments together bear witness to the eternal truth that there exists one God — monotheism. Another term for monotheism is the word monarchianism, meaning that the God of the Bible is a monarch. Monarch comes from a Greek word that has a prefix and a root. The prefix mono means ―one‖ or ―single.‖ The root word archē means ―beginning, chief, or ruler.‖ We hear of archbishops, archenemies, archangels, all of which employ the root term archē. A monarchy is a form of government in which the rule is restricted to one person, a king or a queen, as distinguished from the rule of the few (oligarchy) or the rule of many (plutarchy). The doctrine of the Trinity, central to Christian confession, is not the result of abstract speculation. Rather, it is the result of the church‘s reflection on the teaching of the Bible. With respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, or what I call ―triune monarchy,‖ the early church was faced with two distinct issues. The first was the responsibility to exercise fidelity to the Bible. The second was to be clear in its rejection of heretical doctrine. Two virulent monarchian heresies emerged in the first three hundred years of the Christian church. The first was called Modalistic Monarchianism, as expressed in the heretical views of Sabellius (who taught that God the Father was the only person of the Godhead). Suffice to say, it was condemned at Antioch in 267 AD. Perhaps even more serious was the ―Dynamic Monarchianism‖ of Arius (who stated that Jesus was an ordinary man, in whom had been placed a divine power by god), which threatened Christian orthodoxy in the beginning of the fourth century. It resulted in the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed. The theological struggles of the first three centuries were based upon the church‘s desire to be faithful to biblical monotheism (monarchianism) and at the same time to be faithful to the attribute of deity for each of the three persons in the Godhead.


The church looked at the role of Jesus in creation and in redemption as the only begotten Son of the Father who wrought for us our redemption. There are multiple manifestations of biblical claims for Jesus as God, as seen, for example, in the kenotic hymn of Philippians 2:6-11, in the high Christology of the book of Hebrews, in the ―I AM‖ sayings found in the gospel of John, in the worship that is given to Jesus without rebuke (Matt. 14:33), such as in the case of Thomas at Christ‘s resurrection appearance (John 20:24-29). But there is no passage of Scripture that more occupied the attention of the theologians of the early church than that found in the prologue to the gospel of John (1:1–18). In this prologue, Jesus is identified as the incarnate Logos, the Word who became flesh. This concept is so profound in the opening verses of John‘s gospel that it preoccupied the finest minds of the church for the first three hundred years of the church‘s existence. What is so striking about John‘s prologue is found in its opening words: ―In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men‖ (1:1–4). These few verses are staggering in their affirmation. On the one hand, the Logos is distinguished from God, inasmuch as John writes that in the beginning the Word was with God. By using the term with, the Logos is distinguished from God, even though He was with Him from the beginning. But then the profundity intensifies in the very next clause where the affirmation is made that the Word was God. On the one hand, the Word is distinguished from God. On the other hand, the Word is identified with God. A Christology that honors these two affirmations of the prologue of John must include an identification of the second person of the Trinity with God, while at the same time having some distinction in it that would distinguish the Father from the Son and, subsequently, from the Holy Spirit. So in the formula of the Trinity, the church bows to sacred Scripture, honoring both the unity of God and the distinctions among the persons of the Godhead. The formula made use of terms such as person, subsistence, hypostasis, in an attempt to get at the unity and the distinction within God Himself. In addition to affirming the deity of 351

Jesus, without which deity it would be blasphemous for Him to be an object of worship in the church, the Holy Spirit is also described in the Scriptures in terms of divine attributes. He is omnipotent. He is omniscient. He is infinite. He is eternal. He is actively involved in the divine work of creation, and in conjunction with His being the author of life and human intelligence, He is active in empowering the work of Christ in redemption. We see in the Bible that the work of creation involves the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as the work of redemption includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three are testified to uniformly by the Scriptures as being divine. They are not three gods, because the unity of God remains axiomatic in the monarchianism of sacred Scripture. The church still declares that the Lord our God is one. He is one being, though we must distinguish within that one being the subsistences of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, the church distinguishes among the three persons but sees these distinctions as not essential in character. They are essential in the sense of being absolutely vital and important for a true understanding of God, but they are not essential insofar as the distinctions among the three persons of the Godhead are not distinctions of essence, substance, or being, for God is one. Thus, for example, God is love, and, in the Trinity, there is a mutual love. The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father; and they both love and are loved by the Spirit. The Son and the Spirit show their love for the Father by voluntarily subordinating themselves to Him and His will without sacrificing any sense of equality or importance. In this regard, sometimes you will hear theologians use the expression ―economic Trinity‖, which simply refers to the administration in the Godhead and how the three persons go about accomplishing all that the Father has intended to do. Whenever God acts, the three divine persons work together in perfect unity, perfect harmony, and perfect cooperation. But the unity of the Godhead displays itself most clearly and brilliantly in the work of salvation. In Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 we see this ―dream team‖ in action. Each has His respective duties.


Even though we speak of Christ as being the second person in the Godhead, and the Spirit as being the third person, this kind of enumeration is only for purposes of distinction; it is certainly not for purposes of importance or superiority. To begin with, and to put it simply, this work of salvation was all the plan of God the Father. He thought it up and devised it all. He is the divine architect of this plan of salvation that makes even the angels scratch their celestial heads in astonishment and wonder. In the eternal counsels of God, according to Ephesians 1, in love He determined to save some of His creation. He made them the objects of His love from all eternity past. God the Father acted as the CEO, if you will. It is He who makes all the ―executive‖ choices. Galatians 4 shows the Father orchestrating it all, sending the Son and the Spirit at just the right time to make us His own. Out of love for the Father, the eternal Son, the ―Son of His love,‖ volunteered to take upon Himself a human nature, for love would involve physical suffering and dying, and those are things that God cannot do. The ever-blessed God cannot suffer. He cannot suffer bodily, since He is a Spirit; so God would have to take upon Himself a nature that could suffer. And the eternal God could not die. He could not cease to be, even for one moment. So the Son would have to become a man so that He could die. The Son, therefore, would do all that was necessary in order to purchase those whom God determined to love from before the foundations of the world. It is Christ who redeems us. The word ―redeem” means to buy back by paying a price. That is what Christ did. And you cannot buy back what was not yours to begin with. You can see, then, that the doctrine of redemption is inseparable from the doctrine of election. And Christ, in order to be a Redeemer, has to redeem people actually. He cannot be a Redeemer if He only makes redemption possible. He can only be a Redeemer if He really redeems someone.


Christ took upon Himself the human nature, fulfilled all the covenant obligations for which He volunteered in the covenant of redemption made with the Father, lived a life of perfect obedience, suffered ignominy at the hands of wicked men, and endured the Father‘s wrath on the cross. In fact, God executed His executive office in condemning sin in His Son on the cross. Christ is also the preserver of all those He saves (Jude 1). The Greek word used there means to guard as a warden guards a prisoner. Peter says, we are guarded through faith by God‘s power (1 Peter 1:5), and we are watched over and preserved by the Son of His love. The Spirit, then, is the ―evangelist,‖ if you will, in the Trinity. It is He who does the converting, creating living saints out of dead sinners. He takes the Word preached and applies it to the hearts of dead sinners. He awakens them and gives them life so that they can hear and believe the Gospel. Dead men do not do anything. When Jesus said, ―I came that they may have life‖ (John 10:10), it was because life is exactly what dead men need. Paul wasn‘t kidding when he said we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead men won‘t believe unless somehow they are brought to life. That is what the Holy Spirit does. He ―quickens‖ us, that is, He gives life so that we can believe. That is what being ―born again‖ means. We don‘t believe and then get born again; rather, we are born again and, as a result, we believe. Galatians 4:6 says that God sends forth the Spirit into our hearts, and then we cry out, ―Abba, Father.‖ After we are converted from being dead sinners, who can‘t choose to please God, to living believers, the Spirit sanctifies us in that He personally applies the blood of Christ to the soul, cleansing the heart from sin. That Spirit takes up residence in the soul, taking our prayers to God and making sense of them when we don‘t even know how to pray. The Holy Spirit interprets the groans of our broken hearts and takes them to God, putting them into the right words for the Father. That


Spirit cleanses us, using the Word and the sacraments. He strengthens us and makes us more like God every day. This whole process of saving sinners begins with the love of the Father. He thought up the plan. He put the plan into motion. He designed and choreographed the plan. He gave each member of the Trinity His distinctive tasks, and He sees that all things work according to His plan. As the psalmist said, ―The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me‖ (138:8). The Son steps forward to carry out the Father‘s will: ―I have come to do your will, O God,‖ Christ said (Heb. 10:7). ―My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me‖ (John 4:34). He obeyed the Father‘s will out of love for the Father, just as we should do. He did whatever it took to accomplish the Father‘s purposes, just as we should do. And He made the Father‘s glory His motive, just as we should do. The Holy Spirit takes what the Son has done and applies it to elect sinners, making us righteous in God‘s sight. And all of this to the praise of the glory of His grace. What matchless love, what an inestimable privilege. ―See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God… And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure‖ (1 John 3:1, 3). John Wesley is quoted as having said: ―Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God.‖ At the heart of Wesley‘s statement is the truth that no mere man can comprehend God completely. But it is a mistake to conclude that our inability to understand everything about God means that we cannot comprehend anything about God. Indeed, despite our limitation, God‘s people can comprehend Him rightly through His own self-revelation to us. The Bible does teach that there are certain things God has hidden from us (Deut. 29:29). The Bible also teaches that God is not completely comprehendible by men, nor are His ways fully understood by men (Rom. 11:33-34; 1 Cor. 2:16). Nevertheless, as we examine


the Bible, many divine mysteries are unfolded by God Himself. Though we may not understand completely how God is three in person and one in essence, we do know the simple truth that He is. We who are finite in our capacity cannot fully comprehend our infinite God, for the infinite mystery of our triune God is contained only by He who is infinite. Nonetheless, even though the explanations that our Lord provides are simple, they are indeed true. For that reason, we should be less concerned with trying to figure out those things about God that He has not enabled us to comprehend, and be more concerned with living before His face (Coram Deo) according to all that we can comprehend about our gracious and holy, triune God.


The Incarnation: Why the God-Man? Along with the great theologian and philosopher Anselm of Canterbury we ask the question, Cur deus homo? Why the God-man? When we look at the biblical answer to that question, we see that the purpose behind the incarnation of Christ is to fulfill His work as God‘s appointed Mediator. It is said in Timothy 2:5: ―For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself ….‖ Now, the Bible speaks of many mediators with a small or lower case ―m.‖ A mediator is an agent who stands between two parties who are estranged and in need of reconciliation. But when Paul writes to Timothy of a solitary Mediator, a single Mediator, with a capital ―M,‖ he‘s referring to that Mediator who is the supreme Intercessor between God and fallen humanity. This Mediator, Jesus Christ, is indeed the God-man. In the early centuries of the church, with the office of mediator and the ministry of reconciliation in view, the church had to deal with heretical movements that would disturb the balance of this mediating character of Christ. Our one Mediator, who stands as an agent to reconcile God and man, is the One who participates both in deity and in humanity. In the gospel of John, we read that it was the eternal Logos, the Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us. It was the second person of the Trinity who took upon Himself a human nature to work out our redemption. In the fifth century at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the church had to fight against a sinister teaching called the Monophysite heresy. The term monophysite is derived from the prefix mono, which means ―one,‖ and from the root phusis, which means ―nature‖ or ―essence.‖ The heretic Eutyches taught that Christ, in the incarnation, had a single nature, which he called a ―theanthropic nature.‖ This theanthropic nature (which combines the word theos, meaning ―God,‖ and anthropos, meaning ―man‖) gives us a Savior who is a hybrid, but under close scrutiny would be seen to be one who was neither God nor man. The Monophysite heresy obscured the distinction between God and man, giving us either a deified human or a humanized deity.


It was against the backdrop of this heresy that the Chalcedonian Creed insisted Christ possesses two distinct natures, divine and human. He is vere homo (truly human) and vere Deus (truly divine, or truly God). These two natures are united in the mystery of the incarnation, but it is important according to Christian orthodoxy that we understand the divine nature of Christ is fully God and the human nature is fully human. So this one person who had two natures, divine and human, was perfectly suited to be our Mediator between God and men. An earlier church council, the Council of Nicea in 325, had declared that Christ came ―for us men, and for our salvation.‖ That is, His mission was to reconcile the estrangement that existed between God and humanity. It is important to note that for Christ to be our perfect Mediator, the incarnation was not a union between God and an angel, or between God and a brutish creature such as an elephant or a chimpanzee. The reconciliation that was needed was between God and human beings. In His role as Mediator and the God-man, Jesus assumed the office of the second Adam, or what the Bible calls the last Adam. He entered into a corporate solidarity with our humanity, being a representative like unto Adam in his representation. Paul, for example, in his letter to the Romans gives the contrast between the original Adam and Jesus as the second Adam. In Romans 5, verse 15, he says, ―For if by the one man‘s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.‖ Here we observe the contrast between the calamity that came upon the human race because of the disobedience of the original Adam and the glory that comes to believers because of Christ‘s obedience. Paul goes on to say in verse 19: ―For as by one man‘s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man‘s obedience many will be made righteous.‖ Adam functioned in the role of a mediator, and he failed miserably in his task. That failure was rectified by the perfect success of Christ, the God-man. We read later in Paul‘s letter to the Corinthians these words: ―And so it is written, ‗The first man Adam became a living being.‘ The


last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man‖ (1 Cor. 15:45). We see then the purpose of the first advent of Christ. The Logos took upon Himself a human nature, the Word became flesh to effect our redemption by fulfilling the role of the perfect Mediator between God and man. The new Adam is our champion, our representative, who satisfies the demands of God‘s law for us and wins for us the blessing that God promised to His creatures if we would obey His law. Like Adam, we failed to obey the Law, but the new Adam, our Mediator, has fulfilled the Law perfectly for us and won for us the crown of redemption. He has incomprehensively and graciously brought believers from dust to glory. That is the foundation for the joy of Christians.


Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, that one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: „Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us And do not lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.‟” (NKJV Luke 11:1-13) Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16).

Prayer What is the goal of the Christian life? Godliness born of obedience to Christ. Obedience unlocks the riches of the Christian experience. Prayer is what prompts and nurtures obedience, putting the heart into the proper ―frame of mind‖ to desire obedience. Of course, knowledge is also important because without it, we cannot know what God requires. However, knowledge and truth will remain abstract unless we commune with God in prayer. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches, inspires, and illumines God‘s Word to us. He mediates the Word of God and assists us in responding to the Father in prayer. Prayer has a vital place in the life of the Christian. First, it is an absolute prerequisite for salvation. Some people cannot hear; yet though deaf, they can be saved. Some may not be able to see; yet though blind, they can be saved. Knowledge of the Good News— salvation through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ— will come from one source or another, but in the final analysis, a


person must humbly ask God for salvation. The prayer of salvation is the one prayer of the wicked God has said he will hear. What do those in heaven have in common? Several things. They have all been justified, having put their faith in the atonement of Christ. They are all praising God. And they have all prayed for salvation. To be without prayer is to be without God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the hope and reality of heaven. Second, one of the surest marks of the Christian is his prayer life. One might pray and not be a Christian, but one could not possibly be a Christian and not pray. Romans 8:15 tells us that the spiritual adoption that has made us sons of God causes us to cry out in verbal expressions: ―Abba! Father.‖ Prayer is to the Christian what breath is to life, yet no duty of the Christian is so neglected. Prayer, at least private prayer, is difficult to do out of a false motive. One might preach out of a false motive, as do the false prophets; one might be involved in Christian activities out of false motives. Many of the externals of religion might be done from false motives, but it is highly unlikely that anyone would commune with God out of some improper motive. Matthew 7 tells us that in the ―last day,‖ many will stand at the Judgment and tell Christ of their great and noble deeds done in his name, but his response will be that he does not know them. So, we are invited, even commanded, to pray. Prayer is both a privilege and a duty, and any duty can become laborious. Prayer, like any means of growth for the Christian, requires work. In a sense, prayer is unnatural to us. Though we were created for fellowship and communion with God, the effects of the Fall have left most of us lazy and indifferent toward something as important as prayer. Rebirth quickens a new desire for communion with God, but sin resists the Spirit. We can take comfort from the fact that God knows our hearts and hears our unspoken petitions more than the words that emanate from our lips. Whenever we are unable to express the deep feelings and emotions of our souls or when we are completely unclear about what it


is for which we ought to be praying, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Romans 8:26-27 says, ―the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.‖ When we don‘t know how to pray or what to pray for in a given situation, the Holy Spirit assists us. There is reason to believe from the text that if we pray incorrectly, the Holy Spirit corrects the error in our prayers before he takes them before the Father, for verse 27 tells us that he ―intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.‖ Prayer is the secret of holiness—if holiness, indeed, has anything secretive about it. If we examine the lives of the great saints of the church, we find that they were great people of prayer. John Wesley once remarked that he didn‘t think much of ministers who didn‘t spend at least four hours per day in prayer. Luther said that he prayed regularly for an hour every day except when he experienced a particularly busy day. Then he prayed for two hours. For John Calvin, prayer was like a priceless treasure that God has offered to His people. The neglect of prayer is a major cause of stagnation in the Christian life. Consider the example of Peter in Luke 22:39-62. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray as was his custom and told his disciples, ―Pray that you may not enter into temptation.‖ The disciples fell asleep instead. The next thing Peter did was try to take on the Roman army with a sword; then he denied Christ. Peter did not pray and as a result fell into temptation. What is true of Peter is also true of all of us: we fall in private before we ever fall in public. Is there a right and wrong time for prayer? Isaiah 50:4 talks about the morning as the time when God gives the desire to pray on a daily basis and about renewed confidence in God. But there are other passages that give times of prayer during all times of the day. No part of the day is set apart as being more sanctified than another. Jesus prayed in the morning, during the day, and sometimes all night long. There is evidence that he had a time set aside for prayer; however, considering the relationship Jesus had with the Father, we know that communion between them never stopped. 362

First Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to pray without ceasing. It means that we are to be in a continual state of communion with our Father. How to Pray After explaining justification by faith alone (Rom. 1–4), Paul lists the benefits of being counted righteous in God‘s sight. The second blessing he describes is that we have ―obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand‖ (5:2). As members of the new covenant, we are privileged to be able to enter into the most holy place and commune with the Lord because of Jesus (Heb. 6:19-20). Prayer has been given to us so that we may enter into this holy place to commune with our Father in heaven. As the bride of Christ, we know that He wants us to approach Him with our needs and with our petitions for the sake of the kingdom. After all, if a good marriage on earth depends on communication with one‘s spouse, how much more does a blessed relationship with our Lord depend on speaking with Him on a regular basis? Unfortunately, many of us do not often take advantage of the awesome privilege of prayer. True, we mean well. We establish certain times of the day to approach God, but we find that our minds wander or that all we do is read off a laundry list of our own needs. God is, of course, concerned about these needs (Matt. 6:30), but we sense that we are too self-centered in our prayer lives when all we do is tell God what we need or what we want. Not knowing how to pray is probably the main reason why we encounter these problems. Thankfully, we have a model in Scripture from our Savior Himself on the things we should pray for. The Lord‘s Prayer is not simply something that we should recite in church and at home; it is a guide Jesus gives us for structuring our communication with God (Luke 11:1-13). Fundamentally, this prayer tells us to ask that God‘s name be hallowed so that His kingdom may come and His will be done.


Unfortunately, prayer today has often devolved into a selfcentered pursuit that is fueled by the fulfilling of one‘s indulgences. This ―prosperity gospel‖ has denigrated prayer into nothing more than a ―name it and claim it‖ shopping excursion. In this abuse of privileged access, God‘s glory is all too forgotten. In A Simple Way to Pray, Martin Luther suggests that Christians pray through the Ten Commandments, the Apostles‘ Creed, and the Lord‘s Prayer, using each line as a springboard for adoring God, confessing sin, expressing gratitude and pouring forth supplications. Using such tools helps keep our minds focused on those things our Father is most concerned about. Finally, if I can summarize Calvin‘s teaching on prayer succinctly, I would say this: The chief rule of prayer is to remember who God is and to remember who you are. If we remember those two things, our prayers will always and ever be marked by adoration and confession.


Sanctification: Set Apart to Die and to Live ―When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.‖ Dietrich Bonhoeffer was about thirty years old when he penned these words in his classic work The Cost of Discipleship. Eight years later he was executed for his crimes against the Third Reich. The prison doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer‘s execution wrote, ―In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.‖ The doctor‘s words could not have been more appropriate to describe not only the manner in which Bonhoeffer submitted himself to God in death but also the manner in which he submitted himself to God in life. In his life and at his death, Bonhoeffer grasped one crucial truth: To be set apart to God is to be set apart to die, to die to sin, to self, and to life itself — to take up our crosses daily and to live unto Christ and embrace the true freedom that only comes when Christ calls a man to die and live abundantly in Him. Sanctification is a most simple biblical doctrine, yet it is perhaps the most difficult doctrine to understand. In one sense, sanctification is as simple as understanding the biblical language of being set apart, consecrated, or holy. And in another sense, it is as comprehensive as the application of sacred Scripture to all of life and worship. The Westminster Assembly provided us with one of the more helpful and succinct explanations of sanctification: ―Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness‖ (WSC 35). Still questions remain as to the precise nature of God‘s work and our work in the Spirit-wrought work of sanctification. By grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone we are positionally sanctified, yet in some mysterious way, God has chosen to sovereignly work in us, through us, and with us to sanctify us progressively by His free grace through repentance, faith, and obedience that we might die more and more unto sin and live unto righteousness. However, even though a certain degree of mystery may exist with respect to how we are sanctified in holiness, without which no one will see the Lord, we do know this: Our sanctification is established on 365

Him who knew no sin but became sin for us and died for us that we might die in Him and live for Him in order that we might reign with Him without the power or presence of sin within us. It is only then that our countenances will reveal our genuine and uninterrupted contentment in the One who has bid us to come and die and live in Him.


Church Service – Surely God Was In This Place The old adage tells us that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. When we look at the revolution of worship in America today, I see a dangerous road that is built with such intentions. The good purposes that have transformed worship in America have as their goal to reach a lost world – a world that is marked by baby boomers and Generation Xers who have in many ways rejected traditional forms and styles of worship. Many have found the life of the church to be irrelevant and boring, and so an effort to meet the needs of these people has driven some radical changes in how we worship God. Perhaps the most evident model developed over the last half century is that model defined as the ―seeker-sensitive model.‖ Seekers are defined as those people who are unbelievers and are outside of the church but who are searching for meaning and significance to their lives. The good intention of reaching such people with evangelistic techniques that include the reshaping of Sunday morning worship fails to understand some significant truths set forth in Scripture. In Romans 3, Paul makes abundantly clear that unconverted people do not seek after God. Thomas Aquinas understood this and maintained that to the naked eye it may seem that unbelievers are searching for God or seeking for the kingdom of God, while they are in fact fleeing from God with all of their might. What Aquinas observed was that people who are unconverted seek the ―benefits‖ that only God can give them, such as ultimate meaning and purpose in their lives, relief from guilt, the presence of joy and happiness, and things of this nature. These are benefits the Christian recognizes can only come through a vital, saving relationship with Christ. The gratuitous leap of logic comes when church leaders think that because people are searching for benefits only God can give them, they must therefore be searching after God. No, they want the benefits without the Giver of the benefits. And so structuring worship to accommodate unbelievers is misguided because these unbelievers are not seeking after God. Seeking after God begins at conversion, and if we are to structure our worship with a view to seekers, then we must structure it for believers, since only believers are seekers.


The purpose of corporate assembly, which has its roots in the Old Testament, is for the people of God to come together corporately to offer their sacrifices of praise and worship to God. So the first rule of worship is that it be designed for believers to worship God in a way that pleases God. Another erroneous assumption made in the attempt to restructure the nature of worship is that the modern generation has been so changed by cultural and contextual influences – such as the impact of the electronic age upon their lives – that they are no longer susceptible to traditional attempts of being reached by expository preaching. So the focus of preaching has moved in many cases away from an exposition of the Word of God. We assume this alteration is necessary if we‘re to reach the people who have been trapped within the changes of our current culture. But that‘s like reaching the rich young ruler by throwing money at him. The erroneous assumption is that in the last fifty years, the constituent nature of humanity has changed, as if the heart can no longer be reached via the mind. It also assumes that the power of the Word of God has lost its potency, so that we must look elsewhere if we are to find powerful and moving experiences of worship in our church. Though the intentions may be marvelous, the results, I believe, are and will continue to be catastrophic. But, as bleak as things currently look, this does not have to be the fate of church worship in this country. In the words of our Lord, ―With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible‖ (Matthew 19:26). The great calamity of sin is that our eyes have been blinded to the unveiled glory of God, and at the same time, the greatest future hope of the Christian is the one that John sets forth in his epistles: ―Brother we do not know yet what we will be like, but we know this, that we will be like Him when He comes, for we shall see Him as He is in Himself.‖ We will behold the unveiled glory of God not through the medium of theophany or through a burning bush or through a pillar of cloud, but we will see Him in His essence. We call this in theology the visio Dei, the vision of God, which is also called the beatific vision. It is


called the beatific vision for the simple reason that the sight of the unveiled refulgent glory of God will be the supreme experience of blessedness that any redeemed creature can ever experience. I long for that experience. For now I walk by faith and not by sight, and I think the most difficult thing for any Christian in their service to God is to worship and serve an invisible deity. In the incarnation, we have the highest visible manifestation of the invisible God. But we are living in an age where the presence of God the Father has been eclipsed in our very midst. The latest poll still shows that close to 95% of the people in America affirm their faith or belief in the existence of God. However, when we scratch beneath the surface and look at the God that people are affirming, it‘s some higher power or some nebulous force — anything but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And yet even though people affirm theoretically the idea of the reality of God, we live in this country as if there were no God. We live as practical atheists. The church has been moved to a reservation and been allowed to continue her ministry as long as her ministry is personal and private and stays out of the public square. One of the reasons that God is eclipsed in our country is because of us, because we have not manifested Him and His Word with the boldness that our fathers have done. No one has ever thrown a stone at me for sharing the Gospel. I‘ve not been cast into prison. The price to pay in our country today for preaching is a small one as long we keep it contained where it‘s safe. And that‘s something we have to look at in our own hearts. In the middle of the 20th century, a book was written by the Jewish existential philosopher Martin Buber entitled, The Eclipse of God. In it, he talked about how the knowledge of God the Father had all but disappeared from our understanding. Thus, in the Christian community, we have practically become Unitarians. That is, all our focus tends to be on God the Son at the expense of the other persons of the Trinity — especially God the Father. In so doing, we forget that it was the Father who sent the Son to reconcile us to Him, our Creator, and to provide us with an example on how to live coram Deo, before the face of God.


Now one of the things we have to say about this eclipse is that just like an eclipse of the moon or the sun, we know that these entities are not destroyed. All that happens is the light of the sun is temporarily obscured from our view or the reflective light of the moon is hidden for a short period of time. But the eclipse doesn‘t do anything to the nature of the moon or the nature of the sun. The sun is still there and still shining. The moon is still there. So when Buber talked about an eclipse of God, he wasn‘t saying that somehow God has died or God has been somehow impaired in His being, but rather people‘s cognition of God has been obscured. Even though God has not been pleased to reveal Himself to us as He is visibly, yet as the Scriptures tell us, He has not left Himself without a witness. The heavens declare the glory of God, and we are told again and again in the Scriptures that the whole earth is filled with His glory. Not that there are a few obscure hints buried in the bushes available to only some gnostic elite group that can probe creation and get a glimpse here and there of the glory of God. No! God has filled His creation with His glory. It‘s all around us. Maybe it‘s beneath the surface. But if it‘s beneath the surface, it‘s not far beneath the surface. All we need to do is look, and there it is. John Calvin said that we as sinners walk through this magnificent theater of divine creation as people wearing blindfolds. On the one hand, I like that metaphor because it describes that our failure to see the glory of God is somewhat willful. On the other hand, I see a weakness in that metaphor because it suggests that even though the glory is there, we never see it, but we do see it. We can‘t obliterate it. As much as we hide our eyes from the glory of God, the glory of God still breaks through, but it is obscured. Instead of looking to the deus revelatus of which Luther spoke, we concentrate on the deus absconditus, the way in which God remains hidden from our view. Nevertheless, the task of making the invisible God visible to a fallen world is given to us. It‘s given to the church. As I grow older, my greatest concern this day is the concern for the church in making God visible to our own people. Every pastor of every true Christian


church should endeavor to feed the sheep he has been given. To do so, each church, at a minimum, should periodically go over every item in its worship service and ask, ―Is this biblical? Is this useful to make the invisible God manifest?‖ What should motivate every pastor of a local church more than anything else is to have the congregation walk away from the worship service saying, ―Surely God was in that place. When I came to worship at that church, I was overwhelmed by an immediate sense of the presence of God.‖ I think that‘s what God wants to have happen in the church on Sunday morning.


Faith and Reason In this postmodern culture we have witnessed a fascinating revival of ancient Gnosticism. The Gnostics of antiquity were called by that name because they asserted that they had a superior type of knowledge that surpassed the insights found even in the apostles of the New Testament. They maintained that the insights of the apostles were limited by the natural limitations suffered by human beings tied to rationality. True knowledge, according to these heretics, was found not through reason or sense perception, but through a highly developed mystical intuition. In like manner, in this postmodern world we‘ve seen a wide spread rejection of rationality. This rejection of rationality has infiltrated the church with a vengeance. We see frequent attempts to remove the Christian faith from all considerations of rationality. It is being argued today that biblical revelation is only intelligible by intuition or by a particularly sensitive poetic imagination. This carries with it the idea that biblical revelation is unintelligible through reason. For good cause, the church in recent centuries has had to reject rationalism in its many faceted forms. There is no monolithic philosophy of rationalism; rather, rationalism wears various faces. On the one hand, we think of rationalism as distinct from empiricism with respect to how we come to know what we know. Second, Enlightenment rationalism contrasts reason not with sense perception but with revelation, arguing that revelation is unreasonable and the only truth that can be known is that which can be known by natural reason. The third and most complex form of rationalism is Hegelian rationalism, which defines reason with a capital R, and reality is the unfolding in space and time of ultimate reason. None of these philosophies represents historic Christianity. Christianity is not based on rationalism. However, the rejection of rationalism in the modern church often carries with it the rejection of rationality. This rejection is itself irrational. When we reject humanism, we don‘t reject being human. If we reject existentialism, we don‘t reject existence. So, if we reject an ―ism‖ attached to reason, it does not mean that we are to reject reason itself. Any discussion of faith and reason has to ask the question, ―What


is faith?‖ The biblical answer, according to the author of Hebrews, is that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (11:1). The author goes on to say that by faith we understand that the world was formed by the Word of God. The first thing we notice in this assertion is that faith is something that is substantial, not ephemeral. Secondly, faith represents a type of evidence. It is the evidence of the unseen. At the heart of the concept of New Testament faith is the idea of trust, namely, that faith involves placing one‘s trust in something. In this regard all human creatures are subject to depending at one point or another on faith. I am not an expert in medicine, so I must give a certain trust to the diagnoses offered to me by experts in the field. That trust may be provisional until I find that it is not based in substance or evidence. But in the meantime, to trust what we do not see is not necessarily a matter of being irrational. Without reason, the content of biblical faith would be unintelligible and meaningless. So we say that biblical faith is not the same as reason, but that faith is rational and reasonable. The first assertion that faith is rational means that faith is intelligible. It is not absurd or illogical. If biblical revelation were absurd and irrational, it would be utterly unintelligible and meaningless. The content of the Bible cannot pierce the soul of a sentient creature without first going through the mind. It was Augustine who declared that faith without evidence is credulity. At this point we understand that though faith is rational, it is also reasonable. Biblical faith does not call people to crucify their intellect or take irrational leaps of faith into the darkness with the hope that Christ will catch us. Rather we are called to leap out of the darkness and into the light. When the Scriptures say that faith is the evidence of things not seen, what are we to understand that to mean? The example given is that by faith we understand the world was formed by the Word of God. None of us was an eyewitness of the action of God in creation. Yet we trust that the universe has come into being by the act of God‘s divine work of creation because we have come on reasonable grounds to believe that God‘s Word is trustworthy. Because we are convinced that God‘s Word is trustworthy and that that conviction is a reasonable conviction, we can trust God‘s Word even for those things that we


cannot see. John Calvin also argued the point that true faith is not believing against evidence. Rather, true faith involves trusting in the evidence that God has amply provided in and through His Word. That faith is not without what Calvin called evidences; rather, it is a faith that surrenders to or acquiesces to the evidences. We must be on our guard and vigilant at every moment against the intrusion of irrationality coming from existential philosophy, neoorthodox theology, and the resurgence of mysticism set forth in neoGnosticism. What is at stake is the coherence and intelligibility of God‘s divine work. The church has never preached a message of blind faith to the unsaved and there is no reason to abandon speaking to both the mind and heart of the unbeliever. In a nutshell, what is that message? The way to deal with fallen man is not to cater to his illusions by telling him he has the authority and ability to weigh the truth of God in the scales of autonomous reason. The way to deal with fallen man is to argue against his illusions and to expose Satan's lie for what it is. For man to reject the true and living God and to seek to be as God is to choose death. And not just physical death but multidimensional death and radical death, death that reaches every area of life and penetrates to the very heart of life. Man through sin has separated himself from God, but God in common grace continues to uphold life for both the just and the unjust. Fallen man continues to live and function not because of his world view but in spite of it. We must seek to show fallen man that his world view contradicts his own life experience. Man values logic, but apart from God, there is no reason why the mental laws of logic should have any true correspondence to objective reality. Man values science, but apart from God, there is no adequate basis for any real order and design in the universe or any assurance that man is really in touch with objective reality through his senses. Man values ethics, but apart from God, morals are merely changing conventions, and today's abomination can become tomorrow's virtue. Man values human personhood, but apart from God, man is but a higher animal or even an advanced machine, and personal existence is a temporary evolutionary fluke in an 374

impersonal universe. Man values purpose and meaning, but apart from God, these have no real basis. If fallen man is right in his world view, then all in the world that is precious dies. The apologist must press home without compromise the point that philosophy and science based not upon Christ but upon the first principles of the world are "empty deceit" (Colossians 1:8) and "foolishness" (1 Corinthians 3:18-19). Even as the skeptic argues against God, he is using logic and language, which exist and have meaning only because of God. As Cornelius Van Til has said, the skeptic is like the small child who is able to slap his father's face only because his father is holding him up. Apart from the regenerating grace of God, fallen man will rebel against these arguments. Apart from the regenerating grace of God, he will continue to cling to his lie. He will argue that finite man and pagan gods really are an adequate foundation for a meaningful world. Or he will sink into intellectual skepticism and arrogantly boast of his ability to live in a meaningless world without resorting to the psychological crutch of Christianity. Or, more commonly, he will find some dialectical mix of false faith and proud despair. All the Christian can do is to argue from the Bible that the man who says there is no Jehovah God is truly a fool and that the forbidden fruit will indeed turn to gravel in his mouth. We plead and argue, but only God can cause the blind to see and the deaf to hear. After seeking to drive the non-Christian "below the line of despair" by demonstrating the self-contradictory nature of his world, the Christian then points him to the one solid Rock upon which he can build a valid world and life view. And of course that one solid Rock is Christ. The apologist presents Christ as the Sovereign Savior and Lord and proclaims His Word as ultimate, self-authenticating truth. In the final analysis, we accept the authority of God's Word simply because it is God's Word (Westminster Confession, 1.4). Just as God can swear by no one higher than Himself, there is also no higher authority than God's Word upon which to base our acceptance of God's Word. The importance of this simple principle cannot be overstated. The apologist can argue transcendentally that human logic and science have no adequate foundation apart from the Word of the true and the living God. He cannot make human logic and science his self-authenticating


authorities and then use these to prove God. Logic and science derive their authenticity and authority from God, not vice versa.


Old Testament Prophets I don‘t remember the exact words. They went something like this: ―He was a thundering paradox of a man.‖ These words served as the opening lines of William Manchester‘s classic biography of General Douglas MacArthur. In this work, MacArthur was shown as a multifaceted man whose essence could not be crystallized by a single attribute. In like manner, the prophets of the Old Testament were men of multi-faceted and multi-dimensioned responsibilities and behavior. Some of the roles carried out by these prophets include the following: First, the prophets of Israel were agents of revelation. They were singularly called and endowed by the charismatic power of the Holy Ghost to speak the Word of God. As agents of revelation, they did not preface their teachings by saying, ―In my opinion.‖ Instead, they introduced their statements or oracles with ―Thus saith the Lord.‖ Though the Old Testament prophets as agents of revelation are popularly conceived as being principally men involved in foretelling, that is, predicting future events, in reality the emphasis of their activity was involved in forthtelling. Forthtelling meant that they were declaring the Word of God to their own time and to their own generations. The second dimension of the role of the Old Testament prophet was that of being reformers. We must distinguish here between the work of reformation and the work of revolution. The Old Testament prophets had no desire to root up and cast down or to destroy the cultic structure of the nation. Rather, they called the people to return to orthodoxy, not to abandon their history. They called for a return to the terms of the original covenants that God had made with them, to obedience to the law that God had revealed through Moses, and, most importantly, to the practice of true worship as distinguished from all forms of idolatry and hypocrisy. They spoke boldly against formalism, externalism, and ritualism. But in their critique, they did not repudiate the formal, the external, or the ritual. Rather, it was the ism attached to these concepts that expressed the hypocrisy of Jewish worship during the prophetic era. The rituals, the externals, and the forms had been distorted by false forms of worship.


Third, the prophet carried out the role of the covenant prosecutor. There were legal ramifications in terms of the relationship between God and His people. The structure of that relationship was the covenant, and all covenants had stipulations associated with them as well as sanctions. There was a penalty for disobedience, as well as a reward for obedience. When Israel violated the terms of her covenant, God sent his prosecuting attorneys to file suit against them, to declare his controversy with the people. We see this in Hosea‘s announcement when he called the people of Israel to solemn assembly, saying that the Lord has a controversy with His people. The announcement and pursuit of this controversy by reason of law had the prophets speaking not as priestly defenders of the people, but rather as divine prosecuting attorneys pronouncing God‘s judgment and wrath upon them. Fourth, the role of the prophet in Israel, individually and corporately, was to serve in a concrete way as the conscience of the nation. Israel was structured as a divine theocracy. There was no hard-pressed separation of church and state. When the state and the people in it wandered from the ethical structure of the nation, it was the prophet who would prick the consciences of the people and of the kings. Part of the reason the prophets lived such perilous lives was because they were called to speak boldly to the rulers of the nation, which rulers did not appreciate the intervention of the prophet. Rare was the king such as David who gave heed to the intervention of Nathan and who responded with profound repentance (2 Sam. 12:1– 15). Normally, the course of the rulers was to follow the way of Ahab, to seek the very life of that prophet who dared to call him to repentance (1Kings 19:1–3). In our own culture, where we have a separation of church and state, it is not the role or responsibility of the church to rule the nation. But it is the responsibility of the church to be the conscience of the nation by making God‘s invisible kingdom visible through the preaching of the whole counsel of God as revealed in his Word and then living it out in deed, individually and corporately. Finally, the prophets were known as rugged individualists. There were indeed schools of professional prophets who worked together executing their trade for their own livelihood. Traditionally, these were the ones who became the false prophets of Israel. The true prophets


were those who usually met with God alone in the wilderness and were given a divine summons to stand against the crowd and against the false prophets. Jeremiah, for example, felt the ignominy and the anguish of always being outnumbered by the false prophets who united in their cause against the truth boldly proclaimed by him. It was Elijah who thought that he was the only one left who had not bowed his knee to Baal. God rebuked him and reminded him that he had preserved 7,000 for Himself, who had not bowed the knee to Baal. These incidents reflect the commonplace experience of the Old Testament prophet who, time after time, was called to stand alone against a secularized nation and an immoral culture. They stood their ground for the truth of God and in many cases paid the ultimate price for it. It‘s on the shoulders of the prophets of the Old Testament that the New Testament church establishes the agents of revelation — which are the apostles in the language of the new covenant. And so the foundation of the church of Christ is the foundation of the prophets and the apostles.


The Decline of Christianity in America? A Contrarian View Anyone who watches television or listens to talk radio, especially of the ―conservative‖ or ―religious variety‖, has heard repeated references to the decline of Christianity in America. In almost every case, this narrative of decline and fall is based on extremely limited and highly selective anecdotal evidence. ―Conservative Christians‖, for instance, routinely assume as the presupposition of their ―culture war‖ conversations that the Sixties were a time of rejection of Christianity and Christian ―values,‖ after which our culture has experienced unmitigated decline. Worse, such selective anecdotal evidence is often employed in the service of fear-mongering, declaring that we are on the precipice of the return to barbarity, moving an audience to action by stimulating emotion, rather than cautious, critical assessment. In contrast, for instance, one might argue that the ―good old days‖ of the Eisenhower administration were not all that good for African-Americans, but such common sense observations are rare. Indeed, I would argue that, since that time, our culture has realized more than ever before the biblical truth of the unity of Adam‘s race, even by those who disbelieve in Adam. That said, it still must be conceded that sometimes people are right for the wrong reason and the question remains: are we witnessing the decline of Christianity in America? What I would first like to suggest is that there is a difference, indeed a profound difference, between the decline of Christianity itself and the decline of ―culture religion‖; and further, that it is quite possible, if not altogether likely, that the decline of culture religion will ordinarily correlate with the progress of Christianity, not its regress. Christianity, if Augustine was even remotely correct, recognizes two ―kingdoms‖ or ―cities‖ on earth: the city of God and the city of man. When the two become confused, there may be some small improvement in the city of man, but there will almost certainly be an enormous decline in the city of God.


Christianity, while culturally cooperative in its healthier moments, is always essentially counter-cultural; it is the religion of those who have their ―citizenship in heaven,‖ whose ultimate loyalties transcend local culture and politics, whose apostolic ethic demands that it resist conformity to ―the world.‖ Indeed, authentic Christianity tends to manifest itself most authentically when it is a minority, and especially when it is a persecuted minority. By contrast, when churchmembership or public identity with the Christian religion becomes a means to ―worldly‖ success and ambition, Christianity tends to lose both its vitality and its integrity. For example, what many historians would describe as ―the rise of Christianity‖ during the middle ages, starting with Constantine‘s conversion to the faith (Emperor of Rome, 306-337), I would describe as its decline. ―Constantinianism‖ is the term that many scholars use to describe the promotion of Christianity through the powers of the state. Thus, while the medieval era witnessed the rise of Constantinianism and Christendom, it might also be fairly described as an era that marked Christianity‘s decline, not its rise. If this theory is right, then what many decry today as the ―decline of Christianity‖ is merely the decline of Constantinianism, which is perhaps the best thing that could ever happen to authentic Christianity. Indeed, if there is any real evidence of the decline of Christianity in America, the evidence resides precisely in the eagerness of so many professing Christians to employ the state to advance the Christian religion. That is, if professing Christians believe our religion is advanced by the power of the state rather than by the power of the Spirit, by coercion rather than by example and moral suasion, then perhaps Christianity is indeed in decline. If we can no longer say, with the apostle Paul, ―the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly,‖ then perhaps Christianity is indeed in significant decline. If we believe we need Christian presidents, legislators, and judges in order for our faith to advance, then we ourselves no longer believe in Christianity, and it has declined. Christianity does not rise or fall on the basis of governmental activity; it rises or falls on the basis of true ecclesiastical


activity. What Christianity needs is competent ministers, not Christian judges, legislators, or executive officers. The apostle Paul was apparently quite content with the Roman magistrate not being a Christian believer. He encouraged the believers at Rome to submit to such a magistrate, in part because even he, without the light of the law of Moses or the teaching of Christ, would be a ―terror to evil conduct,‖ and as such, was a ―minister of God for your good‖ (Romans 13:3-4). All Paul appealed to the magistrate for were his rights as a Roman citizen; he never asked for any special dispensation as a Christian (Acts 25:11, 28:19). As American Christians, thinking about these matters in the early twenty-first century, we would do well to remember the American Christians during the time of the founding of our Republic, who only desired from the state the protections other citizens had, nothing more and nothing less. The only relation between state and church desired by these founders was one of toleration and equal protection; that the state would permit the free assembly of peaceable citizens for either religious or non-religious purposes, and would permit, in this sense, the free exercise of religion. The relation of state and church, as conceived by the Continental Congress, was minimal. In the so-called ―culture wars‖ of recent years, one commonly hears allegations that the separation of church and state reflects and promotes a ―secularist‖ agenda. It is certainly true that most secularists (such as Paul Kurtz, in the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II) wish to separate church and state. However, many religious individuals and societies favor such separation also; therefore it is misleading to refer to separation of church and state as a secular or secularist idea. One of the most significant differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is the difference over whether the church rightly wields any civil power, for instance. Thus, it is somewhat curious to note that since the rise of the so-called Moral Majority in the late 1970s, it has been common for fundamentalists and evangelicals to employ the powers of the state in an effort to establish their moral and religious agenda.


This is a very unusual matter, because historically, as previously noted, this was a Roman Catholic position, resisted by the Reformers. Boniface VIII‘s Unam Sanctum, in 1302, articulated the doctrine that the church had two swords, a spiritual sword and a physical sword. Within twenty years, William of Ockham published his objections to this notion that the church should wield civil power, and for his efforts he was excommunicated, and the Catholic Encyclopedia indicates that Ockham was often referred to as ―the first Protestant.‖ What is interesting to me is to observe fundamentalists embracing essentially a Roman Catholic doctrine of the relation of church and state, since in other ways fundamentalists have ordinarily been somewhat stridently anti-Catholic. Contemporary Constantinians conveniently overlook the religious arguments, and often dismiss the separation of church and state as incipiently secularist, but the arguments and actions of past Reformed believers, especially in this country, refute such ideas starkly. For example, Presbyterians before and during the early Republic argued on scriptural and theological grounds for the complete separation of church and state. They frequently cited Jesus‘ dictum that ―my kingdom is not of this world,‖ quoting his statement to ―Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar‘s; and unto God the things that are God‘s.‖ They cited the apostle Paul‘s insistence that ―our citizenship is in heaven,‖ and argued that the only service that pleases God is that which is freely offered from the conscience. If contemporary Constantinians wish to disagree, they have every right in a free society to do so; but they are not free to ignore history, nor are they free from the obligation to counter theological reasons with theological reasons, and scriptural argumentation with scriptural argumentation. So just exactly what are contemporary Constantinians trying to accomplish? Are they simply trying to create a culture in which they feel more comfortable? If so, perhaps they fail to consider that God never intended us to be at ease with our culture. Indeed, our Lord himself repeatedly promised quite the opposite, e.g., Luke 21:16-17: ―You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and


friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name‘s sake‖. Thus, such a goal, in my judgment, is both selfish and misguided. Rather than demanding our rights and creating for ourselves a world where we feel safe and accepted, we need to see the deep spiritual needs of the world and concern ourselves with offering people hope through Jesus Christ. That‘s the essence of being a ―living sacrifice.‖ By trying to establish Christian values through earthly methods, we risk creating a false sense of morality. Forcing people to adopt our biblical standards of morality only brings superficial change and hides the real issue—sin and their need for rebirth in Jesus Christ. When people of this world face God‘s judgment, their ―traditional Christian values‖ won‘t matter at all—only how they responded to Jesus Christ. That‘s why pursing outward change at the expense of inward transformation is both a nearsighted and deadly choice. Furthermore, by making activism our priority, we fashion a reputation as rabble-rousing malcontents and foster hostility toward unbelievers that alienates us from them, and them from us. We need to let go of the notion that culture and government are the enemy. It‘s simply wrong to blame our country‘s moral disintegration on political parties, liberal conspiracies, or biased media. They are the mission field, not the enemy. Yes, the world is sinful, but must we act surprised or shocked by its sinfulness? How else could sinners act? They are blinded by the powers of darkness and have no spiritual discernment. That‘s why it is foolish to expect human institutions to produce the kind of righteousness and justice that only God can affect. We can‘t look to government to uphold or enforce our biblical standards for living. We must do it through consistent, holy living and through the bold proclamation of His Word by the truly redeemed church. When we make that our focus, we‘ll stop treating the unconverted as our enemy and begin seeing them compassionately as lost sinners in need of the gospel. After all, we were once lost just like them, or have we forgotten why grace is so amazing? It is true that we are in a battle,


but it is a clash of spiritual kingdoms, a battle in which we must use the spiritual weapon of divine truth. That was certainly our Lord‘s priority. As He was brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor asked Him, ―‘Are You the King of the Jews‘? . . . Jesus answered, ‗My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom was of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.‖ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‗Are you a king then?‘ Jesus answered, ‗You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world that I should bear witness to the truth‖ (John 18:33, 36-37). Living the Christian life in an ungodly society is never easy. You‘ll recall that the message of the Old Testament prophets always cut across the grain of ancient culture. People true to God‘s Word will do the same today, not because of their political convictions but because of their spiritual convictions. Whenever we are tempted to self-righteously criticize and disparage unbelieving political leaders, journalists, educators, and entertainers, and whenever we find it easy to make angry sarcastic attacks against the ungodly viewpoints and practices of society, we need to remind ourselves as Paul did Christians in Titus 3:3: ―For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.‖ Before we were Christians, we did not all practice or promote the grossest, most heinous sins, but we all were depraved in our natures and at enmity with God (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 1:22). That was true no matter how externally moral, respectable, religiously ―orthodox,‖ or politically conservative we may have been. As we become more mature in the faith and more devoted to the truths of God‘s Word, sometimes we find it distressing to witness the accelerating demise of contemporary culture. But to some degree, with certain variations, such a situation has been true since the Fall and will


be so until Christ returns. We cannot usher in the millennial kingdom via politics. That reality should remind us that ungodly opinions and actions are simply to be expected from unbelievers. The sad state of the world must not hinder us from presenting a godly testimony to people who so desperately need to see the validity of the gospel lived out and proclaimed to them. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that if Christianity is waning in America, it is not because there are secular people in America, or people of other religious persuasions, since such individuals have always constituted a substantial portion of our culture. If Christianity is waning, the evidence of such decline is that religious people themselves have lost confidence in God‘s ability to promote his worship without the coercive power of the state. If religious people themselves prefer Caesar‘s sword to the sword of the Spirit; if religious people disbelieve in the power of the Christian gospel to draw sinners; if religious people no longer believe that Christ‘s example and words have the power to attract people to him, then perhaps Christianity is indeed in decline. But the decline has nothing to do with an assault from without, and everything to do with unbelief from within. In conclusion, my greatest fear is not the decline of culture religion, since the presence or absence of such culture religion strikes me as having almost nothing to do with the vitality of true Christian faith and practice anyway. My fear is that those who fear the decline will resort to employing the coercive power of the state to rescue and/or preserve culture religion; a resort that will, in my estimation, damage the evangelistic cause of true Christianity profoundly.


Spiritual Depression: Dark Night of the Soul Psalm 42 To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. 1



As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where is your God?”


When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.


Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.


O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me— A prayer to the God of my life.




I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 387


As with a breaking of my bones, My enemies reproach me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”


Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

The dark night of the soul. This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time. It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears. It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, ―The Weeping Prophet.‖ It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him. This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him. Spiritual depression is real and can be acute. We ask how a person of faith could experience such spiritual lows, but whatever provokes it does not take away from its reality. Our faith is not a constant action. It is mobile. It vacillates. We move from faith to faith, and in between we may have periods of doubt when we cry, ―Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.‖ We may also think that the dark night of the soul is something completely incompatible with the fruit of the Spirit, not only that of faith but also that of joy. Once the Holy Spirit has flooded our hearts with a joy unspeakable, how can there be room in that chamber for such darkness? It is important for us to make a distinction between the spiritual fruit of joy and the cultural concept of happiness. A Christian can have joy in his heart while there is still spiritual depression in his head. The joy that we have sustains us through these dark nights and is not quenched by spiritual depression. The joy of the Christian is one that survives all downturns in life.


In writing to the Corinthians in his second letter, Paul commends to his readers the importance of preaching and of communicating the Gospel to people. But in the midst of that, he reminds the church that the treasure we have from God is a treasure that is contained not in vessels of gold and silver but in what the apostle calls ―jars of clay.‖ For this reason he says, ―that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.‖ Immediately after this reminder, the apostle adds, ―We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies‖ (2 Cor. 4:7–10). This passage indicates the limits of depression that we experience. The depression may be profound, but it is not permanent, nor is it fatal. Notice that the apostle Paul describes our condition in a variety of ways. He says that we are ―afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.‖ These are powerful images that describe the conflict that Christians must endure, but in every place that he describes this phenomenon, he describes at the same time its limits. Afflicted, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed. So we have this pressure to bear, but the pressure, though it is severe, does not crush us. We may be confused and perplexed, but that low point to which perplexity brings us does not result in complete and total despair. Even in persecution, as serious as it may be, we are still not forsaken, and we may be overwhelmed and struck down as Jeremiah spoke of, yet we have room for joy. We think of the prophet Habakkuk, who in his misery remained confident that despite the setbacks he endured, God would give him feet like hind‘s feet, feet that would enable him to walk in high places. Elsewhere, the apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians gives them the admonition to be ―anxious for nothing,‖ telling them that the cure for anxiety is found on one‘s knees, that it is the peace of God that calms our spirit and dissipates anxiety. Again, we can be anxious and nervous and worried without finally submitting to ultimate despair.


This coexistence of faith and spiritual depression is paralleled in other biblical statements of emotive conditions. We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believers to suffer grief. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Though grief may reach to the roots of our souls, it must not result in bitterness. Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness. In like manner, we see that it is a good thing to go to the house of mourning, but even in mourning, that low feeling must not give way to hatred. The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light of the presence of God.


Biblical Illiteracy What is true about the true believer is that he loves the Word of God. The true Christian loves the Word of God. In the New Testament we find this again and again indicated to us in the language of our Lord, for example, in the eighth chapter of John, he says in verse 31, "If you abide in My Word [if you find your place, your resting place, your living place, your dwelling place, your settling place in My Word], then you are truly My disciples." Mathetes alethos, genuine disciples, live and abide in the Word because it is their only spiritual food. In John 14 and verse 15 Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." There will not only be a love for the Law of God, there will be obedience to that Law from the heart with joy and eagerness. First John chapter 5, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know we love the children of God when we love God and do His commandments." How can you tell when you're a child of God? You love the Law of God and you obey His commandments. Contrast that with 2 Thessalonians, which reminds us that there are people who perish, verse 10 of chapter 2, because 窶付hey did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." Being saved is the equivalent of loving the truth. If you are saved, you love the truth so that people are said to be damned because they do not love the truth. We are like babies, Peter says in 1 Peter 2:1 to 3, who desire the pure milk of the Word, the same way a baby desires milk. Babies do not have diverse appetites. All a baby wants is milk over and over again. They don't want variety. They want milk. And we're the same way. True believers know that it is the Word of God and the Word of God alone that keeps them alive and strong and produces blessing and joy and power and strength and effectiveness. On one occasion in John chapter 6, a group of disciples abandoned Jesus after He had some hard things to say. And Jesus looked at those who remained and said, "Will you also go away?" And Peter gave the great response for those who remained, "To whom shall we go? You and You alone have the words of life." We find our life in the Word of God. It is called the Word of Life. And those who are 391

spiritually alive love the Word. They love to feed on the Word. They hunger for the Word of God because it alone provides the truth that brings them satisfaction. Indifference to Scripture is not a mark of regeneration. Indifference to Scripture is not a mark of salvation. Indifference to Scripture is a mark of spiritual death. And I believe that in all generations, including this one, God's true church, the genuinely redeemed are desperately hungry for the truth. They want the Word fed to them. They want the Word taught to them, preached to them. They want the Word explained to them with all its richness and depth. But that's not what they get most of the time. Serious study of the Word of God, diligent hard labor in the text of Scripture in the original languages, the analogy of Scripture (analogia scriptura) as it explains itself across the sixty-six books, is not the interest of most pop Christian personalities. It was many years ago that J.I. Packer characterized evangelicalism as follows: "It is ego-centric, zany, simplistic, degenerate, half-magic spell casting which is all the world sees when it watches religious television or looks directly at the professed evangelical community." Pretty strong language from an Anglican. He further said this, "Our how-tos, how to have a wonderful family, great sex, financial success in a Christian way, how to cope with grief, life passages, crises, fears, frustrating relationships and what not else give us formula to be followed by a series of supposedly simple actions on our part in the manner of painting by numbers." Things have not improved in the evangelical movement in the several decades since this was written. Where do people go today for teaching in the Word of God that is dazzling to the mind? Where do they go for teaching of the Word of God which is highly accurate, intelligent, challenging, theologically rich, sound, integrated, and clear in its truthfulness? R.C. Sproul suggests that our culture is embedded in proud mediocrity. We're mediocre and we're proud of it. There are still hard-working scholars, hard-working scholastic minds in science and technology and research of various kinds. There are still those who apply themselves to very formidable tasks and they make a diligent and long-term effort to solve whatever problems they 392

encounter. But it‘s hard not to see that such people are becoming more and more the exception. Simply put, we are not producing those kinds of people at the rate we used to in our educational system, because our culture has redefined education. The culture has in general settled for what is quick and what is cheap...junk music, junk art, junk literature, junk thinking. Our culture is far too easily satisfied, far too easily entertained. Excellence, truth and beauty, which used to be the triad of human virtues, have been replaced by funny, cool and cute. Flippancy passes for intelligence. And we get mediocrity by the boatload because we want it. Having welcomed it with open arms, we don't just accept mediocrity, we crave it. And sadly accommodating the culture is the church. You want mediocrity; we'll package it for you. We'll give you evangelical mediocrity. We'll eliminate the transcendent. We'll do away with the biblical. We'll remove the theological. We'll take away the profound demanding truth of Scripture and we will feed the mediocrity hungered masses with more mediocrity. And in so doing, we will legitimize that mediocrity and that superficiality that defines our culture. So now you have people who don't take anything seriously, even the profound. They have not only found a place in the culture, they have found a place in the church. Pastors now are more concerned about being funny and being cool. And they're committed to cleverness and creativity and style and not interested in the demanding rigors of searching the Word of God and proclaiming the depths of its glorious truths because they think the culture needs what the culture wants. How far have we fallen? J.I Packer wrote another introduction to Puritan theology which, though relatively lengthy, I quote here because of its profundity: It does not seem possible to deny that the Puritans were the strongest just where evangelical Christians today are the weakest. Here were men of outstanding intellectual power in whom the mental habits fostered by sober scholarship were linked with a flaming zeal for God and a minute acquaintance with the human heart. All their work reveals this unique fusion of gifts and graces. Where the 393

Puritans called for order, discipline, depth and thoroughness, our temper is one of casual, haphazardness and restless impatience. We crave for stunts, novelties and entertainments. We lost our taste for solid study, humble self-examination, disciplines, meditation and unspectacular hard work in our study. Again where Puritanism had God and His glory as its unifying center, our thinking revolves around ourselves as if we were the hub of the universe. .. . In evangelizing we preach the gospel without the Law and faith without repentance, stressing the gift of salvation and glossing over the cost of discipleship. No wonder so many professed conversions fall away. . . . In teaching on the Christian life, our habit is to depict it as a path of thrilling feelings rather than of working faith and of supernatural interruptions, rather than of rational righteousness. And in dealing with the Christian experience, we dwell constantly on joy, peace, happiness, satisfaction and rest with no balancing reference to the divine discontent of Romans 7. The fight of faith in Psalm 73, or any of the burdens of responsibility and providential chastenings that fall to the lot of the child of God. The spontaneous jollity of the carefree extrovert comes to be equated with healthy Christian living and jolly extroverts in our churches are encouraged to become complacent in carnality while saintly souls of less sanguine temperament are driven almost crazy because they cannot bubble over in the prescribed manner. We're in a very difficult state. Those people who profess to be Christians, who profess to be evangelists trying to reach this society, are giving this culture the mediocrity it wants and turning away from the Word of God. Either they are not Christians, or they are the most carnal of carnal Christians. It's one thing to be carnal while studying the Word of God. It's another to have your carnality set the Bible aside. Biblical illiteracy in America has reached epidemic proportions. Worse, this illiteracy is so widespread and pervasive that nobody even notices anymore. It‘s as if everyone has been systematically vaccinated with just enough pseudo-Christianity to inoculate themselves against 394

the real thing. The fool imagines himself wise and there is no one to correct him. Consequently, the biblical call to spiritual discernment has all but disappeared. Despite ―many teachers‖, legitimate and important theological questions escape discussion today and historically foundational doctrines are trivialized into insignificance under the banner of unity and tolerance, supposed virtues that are usually nothing more than ignorance in disguise. Self-proclaimed Christians can no longer even distinguish biblical truth from worldly folly. Christian churches have become mutual admiration societies, pop psychology therapy sessions, emotional support groups, motivational seminars, business networking opportunities, teen clubs, demographic marketing niches, political action committees, social activity sponsors – anything but teachers of biblical truth. But true Christianity is theocentric, not egocentric, and the total lack of desire to know, love, thank and glorify God does not go unnoticed by Him, nor does He wink at our efforts to dethrone Him and make ourselves our own God, unashamed, unrepentant and unbelieving. God‘s gracious patience with us will not last forever - His justice will not permit it. And this patience should never be confused with impotence or apathy. ―It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God‖. Hebrews 10:31. Indeed, it is.


The Psychology of the Christian Experience: Chief of Sinners The word "psychology" is the combination of two terms - study (ology) and soul (psyche), or mind. The derivation of the word from Latin gives it this clear and obvious meaning: the study of the soul or mind. Despite this simple and concise definition, this is rarely what the average person means when using this word. Indeed, thanks to the popularization of the academic field of psychology by the modern media, it seems that nearly everyone today considers himself an amateur psychologist. And it is this popular notion of the word that I want to address here. Notwithstanding the modern Church‘s current infatuation, the Bible knows nothing of the sort of pop psychology in vogue today -- a superficial, self-absorbed cult of self-esteem and therapy that serves as a substitute for a desire to know transcendent, ultimate truth by catering to individual felt needs. Incidentally, trying your hardest to get what you want and desiring to be your own God is not a virtue and it‘s nothing new. Indeed, such behavior is sinful rebellion against God and has been at the heart of Man‘s corrupt moral nature since the Fall. Nonetheless, as a partial accommodation, allow me to frame a description of the Christian life as best I can in the language of psychology. How might we describe the psychology of Christian experience? Is it characterized by joy, peace, and contentment? Or is it characterized by lament, struggle, and holy discontent? Should I feel good about myself or bad about myself? Should I forget past failure and delight in present grace or continue to remind myself of the evidence of the depths of my depravity in my past record and present reality? What I hope you‘ll say is: ―Both!‖ But what I suspect most will say is the former and heaven forbid the latter. Look at any recent Christian advertising, whether for books, CDs, conferences, or radio stations, and you find that everyone is smiling. Everyone is happy. All the time. Nowhere is the dark side of the Christian life realistically depicted. Chalk it up to the requirements of advertising, but still, one would hope for greater accuracy and honesty from people supposedly 396

devoted to truth. Is the Christian life all smiles? And specifically, is the counsel accurate that urges us in the name of forgiveness to forget the past and all its failure, error and mistake? The psychology of Christian experience, as described by the first generation of Christians, includes a massive dose of what some have disparagingly called ―worm‖ theology (as in ―such a worm as I‖). Listen to the apostle: ―The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost‖ (1Tim. 1:15). The apostle Paul considers himself the ―foremost‖ of sinners, the ―chief‖ of sinners in the King James Version. Is this a self-image problem? Poor apostles. Unlucky them, to have lived before the selfesteem revolution. He wallows in guilt, doesn‘t he? ―I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief‖ (vv. 12–13). Why does he feel the necessity to rehearse his past as a ―blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent‖? Why hasn‘t the apostle Paul learned to see himself as God sees him — ―in Christ‖ — as a forgiven, cleansed, adopted child of the Father, clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Answer: he does. But he is also careful not to forget the depths out of which he has been saved. The psychology of the Christian experience is wide-ranging, but essentially it is that of humble gratitude. We are humble because we know the truth about ourselves: our corruption, our weakness, our conflicts, our helplessness. We are also exceedingly grateful for what Christ has done and for what we have: peace with God, family membership, and eternal life. Indeed, I understand the magnitude of what I have in Christ because of this accompanying awareness of the depth of my depravity. A constant awareness of my past failure and continuing corruption is not only not contrary to a rich apprehension of grace but its necessary companion. The exceeding greatness of God‘s grace in Christ is understood in its fullness only against the black backdrop of my unworthiness. This is why the apostle Paul gives


thanks (v. 12) and bursts forth in praise even as he recalls his past crimes and present status as the chief of sinners: ―But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen‖ (vv. 16–17). Abraham understood that he was but ―dust and ashes‖ (Gen. 18:27). Jacob saw himself as ―not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness‖ of God (32:10). John the Baptist said he was ―not worthy to untie‖ the strap of Christ‘s sandal (John 1:27). The centurion was not worthy to have Jesus under his roof (Matt. 8:8). The apostle Paul said that he was ―nothing‖ (2 Cor. 12:11), ―the very least of all the saints‖ (Eph. 3:7:8), and ―unworthy to be called an apostle‖ (1 Cor. 15:9). This is the voice of the godly throughout the ages. The voice of true piety says, ―I am no longer worthy to be called your son‖ (Luke 15:21); it says, ―We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty‖ (Luke 17:10. Forget past failures? Ignore present corruption? Better not. Embracing our depravity, past and present, is key to a proper Christian psychology. Humility develops depth only with an awareness of unworthiness and gratitude in the light of what Christ has done for me — even me, the foremost sinner of all.


Addendum A A Brief History of Modern Intellectual Thought in Western Culture Introduction How do I know what I know? Why do I do what I do? Such questions would seem natural and quite practical to contemplate, but it is the rare individual who does so with any seriousness. We live in a culture where most people have great difficulty articulating what they believe, let alone why they believe it. This is not surprising since most people have a smorgasbord approach to their personal worldview, adopting and absorbing ideas from a variety of sources without much critical thought. They don‘t care where these ideas originally came from and they are unaware or untroubled by the inconsistencies and contradictions produced by the patchwork quilt of beliefs they embrace. Nevertheless, ideas have consequences and there is value in examining these matters a little closer. One might think that Christians would compare favorably to those immersed in contemporary culture, but survey after survey reveals that such is not the case. This is partially understandable since new believers who come into the church bring their worldview with them. This has always been true. But, more significantly, those Christians already in the church who do not understand worldview issues, coupled with superficial biblical teaching, will likely continue to embrace nonChristian concepts without even realizing it. As such, understanding the ideas that lie behind various worldviews is beneficial for everyone, but it is especially important for Christians if they truly wish to glorify God with their lives. Paul warned the Colossians not to allow themselves to be taken ―captive by philosophy‖ (Col. 2:8). Unfortunately, most Christians today assume that the best way to prevent that is to avoid learning anything contrary to what they believe. But, like it or not, worldview issues are all around, pressing in from the surrounding culture. Instead 399

of trying to completely shield oneself from culture, Paul would advise a different approach: Understanding something about the ideas that intrude and learning to discern between truth and error. Biblically speaking, it is the Christian who should be doing the capturing, not the other way around. Paul said he destroyed ―arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God,‖ and he took ―every thought captive to obey Christ‖ (2 Cor. 10:45). Christians are to tear down intellectual strongholds in order to free those who are deceived spiritually and are held captive by forces of darkness (2 Tim 2:26). Paul knew the culture of his day. He could quote philosophers from memory (cf. Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12), use their terminology, and examine their views from a Christian perspective (cf. Acts 17:22-31). Not enough Christians today can do that – including pastors, counselors, or even Christian scholars. This must change and the following is intended as a step in that direction. Summary Western culture is undergoing sweeping and profound changes that are transforming the prevailing cultural worldview, especially with regard to the natures of truth. Like other periods of major change in history, the present one is a mixture of the old and new. In order to avoid becoming captives, and instead becoming capable of destroying strongholds so that Christians can do the capturing, one will have to go back and examine some past intellectual battles. Christianity grew to dominate culture in the Middle Ages, joining faith (what is known by revelation) and reason to form a worldview that encompassed all of knowledge. Modernism rejected the medieval concept that knowledge is based on authority. Modernists based knowledge on the process of objective reasoning from observation, which became their concept of science. By the late eighteenth century, some began to challenge the supremacy of reason, the possibility of objectivity, and the ability to know the world as it is. The twentieth century saw increasing doubts about the objectivity and benefits of


science, the self as a foundation for knowing, the connection between language and the world, and the very possibility of a worldview. Within western-oriented cultures today there is an uneasy coexistence of modernism and what is loosely called postmodernism, the name for the intellectual and cultural movement that reacted to modernism. Postmodernism is especially challenging for Christians, who claim to have the correct interpretation of an inspired text and an objectively true message that applies to all peoples and cultures. So, always keeping in mind that ideas have consequences, let us now explore in more detail most of the major thinkers and ideas that have shaped past and present Western culture. The Road To Modernism Unlike Judaism, which God established as a separate culture, the church was born into an existing culture. It shared with that culture and other ancient cultures the view that supernatural purposes shape events in nature and history. In spite of unseen forces, the physical world is real and can be known and described adequately in language. Early Christians seemed to have no doubt that words refer to things, and that propositions are true when they correspond to reality (called the correspondence theory of truth). Differences between Christianity and Greco-Roman society brought persecution until the fourth century when Constantine conquered the Empire in the name of Christ. From that time forward, the church lived in an uneasy alliance with government, through which it eventually came to dominate all aspects of culture. The goal of many medieval scholars was to form a grand synthesis of all knowledge – spiritual, philosophical, and scientific. It was thought that all parts of a worldview could be connected. For example, what we believe about logic and mathematics should fit the nature of God; beliefs about the arts should fit what we know about the spiritual nature of humanity, the role of government fits with a sovereign God and fallen humanity. In keeping with this mentality,


Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) believed that there can be perfect harmony between the Bible, reason, and science because God is both the author of the Bible and the Creator. The foundations that made this grand synthesis possible were soon challenged. For one, John Scotus (ca. 1274-1308) said that the will, not the intellect, is primary, and that this is true of God as well as humanity. This means that God does whatever He wants, not necessarily what is rational. If God did only what is rational, we could figure out truth with our minds by figuring out what God chose to do. Supposing that God‘s will is primary helped shift the intellectual balance from reason to observation, and therefore to science. Those who followed the Islamic philosopher Averroes (11261198) held to a theory of double truth by which reason could lead to one conclusion while faith could lead to another. William of Occam (1285-1347) continued to widen the divide between areas of knowledge by advocating that theology be separated from other fields. He intended to protect theology from attack, but eventually his work had the opposite effect. For various reasons, the church‘s spiritual and moral authority and power waned. In the sixteenth century, the Reformation church split from what we now call the Catholic Church. In the wars that ensued, thousands were killed in the name of doctrine. French philosopher Rene‘ Descartes (1596-1630) sought certainty in the midst of the turbulence. He systematically doubted everything until he found the one thing he could not doubt – that he was doubting. This led to his famous statement, ―I think; therefore I am,‖ and he proceeded to build up from there to an entire worldview. He bypassed the authority of the church and tradition to the ground of knowing the self. He thought the self could know reality as it is and was confident that one can accurately know his/her inner states. It is significant that he thought he could be certain about some beliefs without having to appeal to other beliefs, a view known as foundationalism. Foundationalism accepts that some things can be known without having to prove them with other beliefs. Beliefs might


be foundational because they are evident to our senses (e.g., ―there is a light on in the room‖), or because to doubt them would be nonsensical or self-contradictory (e.g., ―the whole is greater than the parts‖). These sorts of beliefs need not be proved, just as no one would need to prove to you that your toe hurts after you stub it – you know it hurts. Foundationalists seek to ultimately ground our nonfoundational beliefs (beliefs that need to be proved using other beliefs) on our undoubtable foundational beliefs. Many hold, as well, that these foundational beliefs help connect us to reality and save us from an endless chain of proof in which we believe A because we believe B, and believe B because of C, and so on. It is thought that the proof process has stopping points, because somewhere in all the things we know are some foundational beliefs, which need not be proved. Because Descartes built his worldview on what he could know apart from presupposing church dogma and classical learning, he is regarded as the father of modern philosophy. The Renaissance in which he lived was a time of searching for new foundations of knowledge. People turned first to classical civilization, then to the study of nature, using observation rather than tradition. Everywhere people were tuning aside from the authority of the church and tradition to find answers independently. Increasingly, explanations for things were in terms of natural rather than supernatural causes. Theology, which once regulated knowledge and life, was becoming a separate field, disconnected from everything else. Though its increasing isolation seemed to put it out of reach of attack, it would soon go begging for relevance. The modern mind-set was further shaped in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, sometimes called the Age of Reason. It was thought that humanity could solve all its problems if people would sweep away superstition and unfounded beliefs and instead embrace objectivity and reason. Humanity is not hopelessly sinful and utterly dependent on God, but merely ignorant. For them, reason was not the abstract deduction of truth from another, the method used by medieval philosophers and continued with Descartes, and Spinoza (1632-1677). Rather, it was the objective drawing of conclusions from observation, the method of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and John Locke (1632-


1704). Reason seemed to be the answer to everything. Even nature itself seemed to be reasonable in that it showed design and obeyed natural laws. Some concluded, therefore, that it would be far better to get back to nature and be free of the artificial influences of society and church. Doctrine, which had been so important in the Middle Ages, was rejected as dangerous because people fought disastrous wars over it. Tolerance – not conviction – was the chief virtue, and science, not religion, would show us the way, they thought. So the modern worldview replaced the medieval synthesis of faith and reason. Where the medievals had based knowledge on deductions from a supernatural tradition, modernism attempted to start on ground that was as neutral as possible. They believed it was possible to investigate an issue from a viewpoint that is free from all perspectives and requires only minimal assumptions, those that people could agree upon even if they hold different views on an issue. Investigations then could begin on intellectually neutral ground that is common to all perspectives on a matter. Modernists thought that the ideal way to reach a conclusion is to reason objectively from observation, in other words, scientifically. Working in this way, a person could discover objective truth that is universal, eternal, and independent of all perspectives. Furthermore, they had great confidence that everything fits together. What is true is also what is good (has value), right (ethically), and beautiful and is eminently practical for all persons and societies. They were confident that science would lead to a better life for the individual and society. Modernism followed Descartes in regarding people as autonomous and able to relate to truth as individual. And as individuals, we can know our inner selves clearly and coherently. We can also describe truth in language that is objectively and unambiguously connected to reality. Using language, we can formulate theories that are universally true and independent of all perspectives and social situations such that they mirror reality itself. Everywhere there was optimism that humanity is steadily discovering truth, solving its problems, and progressing to a bright future.


By the late eighteenth century, however, noticeable cracks were visible in modernism‘s foundation. By the twentieth century, postmodernism came to reject much of what modernity had stood for. Disillusionment With Modernism After dethroning authority as a way of knowing, reason was facing its own demise. David Hume (1771-1776) showed that we cannot conclude even something as basic as that one thing causes another by drawing only from objective observation. All we really know is that one thing follows another. The idea of causality is added to our experience by our mind. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) read Hume and realized something was very wrong with the idea that we must work only by observation (what comes from our senses alone). If talk of causality is anything less than perfectly legitimate, then we cannot know much about the world, and we certainly have no foundation for science. He concluded that knowledge comes not from our minds alone (as many medievals and Descartes thought), nor from our senses alone (as Locke and Hume thought). It comes from both. Our senses give us information, and our minds structure that information. The point is that after Kant it was widely held that knowledge is irreducibly a matter of interpretation, not just a matter of getting our minds to mirror reality. Furthermore, there is no way to get outside our minds to see what reality is ―really‖ like. Therefore, we know only our experiences, not the way things are in themselves. And that means we cannot know that God exists, although it may be helpful in practical ways to suppose that He does. Kant made it intellectually fashionable both to doubt that we can know reality as it is and to focus on practical things, like ethics. Later that would be echoed in the pragmatism of John Dewey (1859-1952) and the neo-Pragmatism of Richard Rorty (1931- 2007), who both suggest that we cannot know reality in any full and final sense; we must settle for what works. Whereas in the eighteenth century reason seemed to be the answer to everything, by the early nineteenth it seemed adequate for


only a narrow range of issues. What it missed, people thought, were the depths of the human spirit and the experiences that make us human. Subjectivity was all the rage in what was called the Romantic Age, which lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century. G.F.W. Hegel (1770-1831) challenged the age-old concept that reality is unchanging. Western thought, including Christianity and most Greeks, had long held that behind change is permanence, and the core of the permanence is an immutable God. But Hegel said that reality – including God – is evolving to higher levels. A similar worldview was later held by philosophical mathematician A. N. Whitehead (1861 – 1947), who inspired Process Theology in recent times. Process thinkers believe that God changes and that evil exists because God can do no more than try to persuade people to do what is right. Soren Kirkegaard (1813–1855), a Danish Christian, foreshadowed the postmodern critique of modernist society as being destructive of individuality. He thought that modernism‘s emphasis on such things as analysis, reason, and universal concepts weakened vital aspects of individual human life, such as commitment and ―passion‖ – things at the core of a life with depth and spirituality. Truth and things that really matter in life are not objective – they are subjective, Kierkegaard claimed. Typical too of postmodernism, he identified the media as a negative influence on culture. Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) accepted Hegel‘s idea that reality is changing on a fundamental level, but he did away with God and made humanity the focus of evolution. Humans are not a product of their sin nature, he said, but of their economic environment. So when workers throw off the yoke of those who control the means of producing wealth that will usher in an ideal age of common ownership – i.e., communism. For the most part, Marx‘s followers did not use reason to show that opposing views are wrong. They simply reinterpreted opponents‘ views from their own Marxist viewpoint. For example, those who did not agree that the world is divided into the oppressed working class and the oppressive owning class had simply been co-opted by the


owning class. This approach contrasted with the modern age, which had sought to make intellectual progress through public discourse using reason and, as much as possible, premises that were common to both sides. Skepticism in the modern age had been rooted in facts or a lack of facts. But the approach used by Marxists has increased in the postmodern age and earned the name the hermeneutics of suspicion. Rather than deal with the truth or falsity of an idea, this approach casts suspicion on the motives of the person holding it and supposes that we are prone to self-deception. It features less epistemological analysis of what is true or false and more psychological and sociological analysis concerning why people hold the views they do. Accordingly, skepticism in the postmodern age has more to do with beliefs about the nature of people than with objective facts. Sigmund Freud (18561939) found cause for suspicion on psychological grounds, proposing that beliefs are products of such things as wish fulfillment and repressed desires. Fredrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), who was as much as anyone a prophet of the postmodern age, supposed that the hidden drive behind all creatures is the desire for power. The new psychological and sociological approach subverted the modernist idea that the individual has direct access to reality through the knowledge of his own mind. Marx claimed that the individual‘s thinking is shaped by economic structures, Nietzsche said it was the will to have power, and Freud saw unconscious (sexually oriented) drives. Descartes‘ autonomous self, which supposedly could build knowledge on clear and distinct ideas, would continue to come under severe attack into the twentieth century. Modernism had made the self the building block of knowledge; postmodernism was making it the stumbling block. Nietzsche considered morals as well as truth to be relative. There is nothing that is right for every individual to do, he said. Furthermore, he believed that morals have wrongly been built on love and compassion. Darwinian evolution shows that nature‘s way is for the strong to dominate and exploit the weak, something often mistaken for cruelty. The strong must be freed from the morality of compassion, which was invented by the weak for their own self-protection.


Moreover, the strong must be freed from belief in God. He made no secret of what he regarded as the chief culprit in society. He said, ―I call Christianity the one great intrinsic depravity . . . the one immortal blemish of mankind. . . .‖ He rejected the quest of most previous philosophers and theologians for a worldview that provides a unified explanation of things. He thought that constructing such a worldview depends on having self-evident truths, whereas none could be had. Also, such persons wrongly focus on abstractions instead of more practical matters. His skepticism about the possibility of forming an allencompassing worldview is typical of postmodernism. Also typical of much postmodernism is that it never attempts an all-encompassing systematic analysis or explanation of things. As philosophy challenged modernism in a number of ways, new discoveries in science were challenging long-held ideas about the very structure of the world. Up to now, modernism had functioned in Newton‘s universe of rigid causes and natural laws. Since those laws could be discovered by reasoning about observations, there was great optimism that we would know the world and control it. It was even thought that we could discover the natural laws governing things such as human behavior and society, which could also be controlled for the better. Marx thought he had discovered such laws, and Communists came to think they could control individuals and society completely. Modernism never doubted that more human control was better. That is because they left divine purposes out of explanations of things (since they can‘t be observed); thus there were no higher purposes than our own. Modernists had no reason to doubt that human purposes are good because they rejected any idea of a sin nature (the Fall couldn‘t be proved by observation either). History seemed to confirm their overall optimism about human nature because, for example, there was a long productive peace in Europe after the Napoleonic wars. But by the early twentieth century science seemed to be showing that the world was not that predictable after all. According to the ‗uncertainty principle‖ of physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901–1976), we cannot know both the precise location and speed of a subatomic


particle. That seemed to show that subatomic particles are unpredictable and – contrary to Newton – events cannot be predicted. Among those who resisted this conclusion was Einstein (1879– 1955), who said this shows nothing more than our present ignorance of causes. The universe is not unpredictable because, he said, God would not ―play dice‖ with it. But Einstein‘s own theories were wrecking the traditional concept of absolutes, showing that light is affected by gravity, and that mass and even time could change with speed. Like Heisenberg‘s uncertainty principle, people drew implications that went far beyond physics. It bewildered Einstein that people thought his theories showed that everything, even morals, is relative. Science itself was being reinterpreted. It was always assumed that a scientist would prove something, and that the next scientist could build on that base. In this way, scientists‘ knowledge makes steady progress toward objective truth. But Karl Popper (1902-1994) argued that a theory is not proved in any final sense because a new discovery could show it to be wrong. So science is not a matter of proving theories once and for all, but of holding them until they are disproved. Disproof is the key, and theories that cannot be stated rigorously enough to be decisively disproved are not scientific (a problem for the theories of Marx and Freud, he thought). Then philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn (1922–1996) argued that science does not make steady progress at all. It shifts from one major theory (―paradigm‖) to another. Science works under a theory until too many things turn up that can‘t be explained, and a new theory is then proposed. Some scientists accept it, while others remain loyal to the old view – older scientists who have believed it for a long time, for example. In Kuhn‘s view, science is not a pure field where people with pure motives find pure truth. Philosopher Michael Polanyi (1891– 1976) showed further that science is not uniquely objective but is more like other fields than has been thought; it uses creative imagination, for example. The view that an individual has direct access to reality by either clear and distinct ideas (Descartes) or sense perceptions (John Locke)


was now regarded as simplistic. ―Facts‖ are not outside us to be understood because we bring to any situation such things as assumptions and presuppositions, and they influence what we see and how we interpret it. Facts are already ―theory laden,‖ it was said. If so, there is no way to be objective. A similar revolution was underway regarding language. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) started out with the more modernist view that propositions picture reality and are connected to it. As such, they can be formed precisely and are either true or false. Wittgenstein made a remarkable change to the more radical view that the meaning of a proposition is its use. So propositions are not true or false, but useful or not useful. The meaning of propositions, like ―God exists,‖ depends on such things as how people use it and how they live. Furthermore, since meaning is a social thing, the individual has no special access to truth, not even when it has to do with his own inner state. So we cannot be more sure that ―my foot hurts‖ than we can that ―there are ten chairs in this room.‖ This was yet another attack on Descartes‘ idea that the individual and his mind is the bedrock of knowledge. Structuralism continued the attack. The movement continued the earlier work of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (pronounced so-SYR; 1857–1913), who pointed out that meaning is not a matter of the mental relationship between a word and the thing to which it refers, and therefore a word does not join a concept with a thing in the world. It merely joins a concept with a sound. Furthermore, that connection is arbitrary and could have been made by a different sound. In addition, words have meaning only in relation to other words. He thus challenged the traditional view that language is connected to the world. Structuralists looked for meaning not in things but in relationships between things, just as a dollar bill has meaning only in relation to bills of other denominations and the monetary system. And like the constantly changing value of a dollar, structures are dynamic rather than static. It was thought that structures are everywhere in experience and society, and that they can be studied scientifically. Structuralists denied the modernist view that meaning is created by


autonomous individuals using their own clear ideas. Instead, they regarded the individual as a product of society and language. Postmodernism As fundamentals were being rethought, historical and cultural events were colliding with many cherished assumptions of the modern age. Confidence in the goodness and perfectibility of humanity was crushed by two world wars, a cold war, and ruthless totalitarian states. Perhaps worst of all, after centuries of supposed progress, there was a holocaust in Europe – the very center of modernism. And far from being saviors, science and technology were undermining the quality of life with pollution, were offering governments unprecedented control over individuals, and were threatening humanity‘s very existence with nuclear weapons. Tensions in France came to a head in 1968 when strikes and riots by workers and students brought the country to a halt. French President Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) promised new elections and pleaded for order. Rather than support radical change, the Communist Party denounced the demonstrators and supported the government. Disillusioned, the political left then saw communism as part of the problem and began to look with greater interest on radical French thinkers. Marxism had already been undergoing change. Even Marxists were beginning to realize that economics and the class struggle could not account for the breadth of history and human experience. As Communist regimes became more impoverished and repressive while capitalism flourished, Marxists modified various core beliefs and embraced democracy. Louis Althusser (1918-1990), motivated by his Kantian interest in the nature of reality, tried to use stucturalist insights to make Marxism into a theory of knowledge. By contrast, the socalled Frankfurt school went in a more humanistic direction, critiquing modern culture as dominating and dehumanizing. Mixing Marx and Freud, Hebert Marcuse (1898-1979) said that capitalism represses human instincts. However, they can be liberated and then shaped through labor for a life of beauty, peace, and sensuality. As the father


of the New Left, he claimed that revolution had to come from students, minorities, and intellectuals because workers were too stupefied by the products of their labor. Jurgen Habernas (1929-) rejected postmodernism as heading toward relativism and irrationality. He sought to refine the Enlightenment‘s quest for rationality, science that liberates, free communication, and a unified view of things. While these Marxists retained some measure of modernism‘s commitment to a unified worldview, others accepted the postmodern belief in the impossibility of any such worldview. They have dissolved into the left‘s many disparate and even conflicting social agendas, including gay rights, lesbianism, Feminism, multiculturalism, environmentalism, anticolonialism, and anti-nuclear activism. Michel Foucault (1926-1984) broke with the Communist Party in 1951 and developed the view that oppression is multi-faceted and pervasive, not just a matter of the owning class oppressing workers. As he saw it, the individual is dominated by society in different ways, especially by what is considered knowledge. He rejected modernism‘s view that knowledge is neutral and a pathway to liberation. In a view exactly opposite to Francis Bacon‘s claim that knowledge gives power to its possessor, Focault regarded knowledge as both a product and a tool of oppression. Those with power decide what will be accepted as ―knowledge,‖ and they use it to oppress people. So science is far from neutral, and it is not even clear that it – or the human race for that matter – makes progress. Rejecting modernism‘s search for both a single explanation of human problems and an all-encompassing worldview, Foucault, as a post-structuralist, along with many postmodernists, have followed Nietzsche‘s more fragmented approach to reality. According to his perspectivist account, there is no single correct view of the world, but countless views that are correct in their own way. Influenced by this sort of thinking, some in the popular culture have concluded that since there is no single true perspective we should strive to be enriched by as many different views (and behaviors) as possible; all should be included.


Without lingering further on so-called postmodern thinkers, I think it is safe to say that Modernism is now largely regarded as yesterday's way of thinking. The dominant world-view in secular and academic circles today is called post-modernism. Post-modernists have repudiated modernism's absolute confidence in science as the only pathway to the truth. In fact, postmodernism has completely lost interest in "the truth," insisting that there is no such thing as absolute, objective, or universal truth. Modernism was indeed folly and needed to be abandoned. But post-modernism is a tragic step in the wrong direction. Unlike modernism, which was still concerned with whether basic convictions, beliefs, and ideologies are objectively true or false, post-modernism simply denies that any truth can be objectively known. To the post-modernist, reality is whatever the individual imagines it to be. That means what is "true" is determined subjectively by each person, and there is no such thing as objective, authoritative truth that governs or applies to all humanity universally. The post-modernist naturally believes it is pointless to argue whether opinion A is superior to opinion B. After all, if reality is merely a construct of the human mind, one person's perspective of truth is ultimately just as good as another's. Having given up on knowing objective truth, the post-modernist occupies himself instead with the quest for "understanding" the other person's point of view. So the words truth and understanding take on radical new meanings. Ironically, "understanding" requires that we first of all disavow the possibility of knowing any truth at all. And "truth" becomes nothing more than a personal opinion, usually best kept to oneself. That is the one essential, non-negotiable demand postmodernism makes of everyone: we are not supposed to think we know any objective truth. Post-modernists often suggest that every opinion should be shown equal respect. And therefore on the surface, postmodernism seems driven by a broad-minded concern for harmony and tolerance. It all sounds very charitable and altruistic. But what really


underlies the post-modernist belief system is an utter intolerance for every world-view that makes any universal truth-claims -- particularly biblical Christianity. In other words, post-modernism begins with a presupposition that is irreconcilable with the objective, divinely-revealed truth of Scripture. Like modernism, post-modernism is fundamentally and diametrically opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Postmodernism and the Church The church today is filled with people who are advocating postmodern ideas. Some of them do it self-consciously and deliberately, but most do it unwittingly. The evangelical movement as a whole, still recovering from its long battle with modernism, is not prepared for a new and different adversary. Many Christians have therefore not yet recognized the extreme danger posed by post-modernist thought. Post-modernism's influence has clearly infected the church already. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that, in contemporary America, the Church is rapidly losing its utterly unique voice in direct correlation to its wholesale abandonment of the historic, biblical world view, not to mention the culture confronting message inherent in the gospel. Christianity in name only is not Christianity. Christians cannot capitulate to post-modernism without sacrificing the very essence of our faith. The Bible's claim that Christ is the only way of salvation is certainly out of harmony with the postmodern notion of "tolerance." But it is, after all, just what the Bible plainly teaches. And the Bible -- not post-modern opinion -- is the supreme authority for the Christian. The Bible alone should determine what we believe and proclaim to the world. We cannot waver on this, no matter how much this post-modern world complains that our beliefs make us "intolerant." Where Are We Now? ―The God hypothesis is no longer necessary to explain the origin of the universe or the development of human life.‖ This assertion was


at the very heart of the movement that took place in the eighteenth century that we call the Enlightenment. God‘s existence was seen as no longer necessary because He had been supplanted by the ―science‖ of that period that explained the universe in terms of spontaneous generation. Here we see an example of pseudoscience supplanting sound philosophy and theology. Added to this, we have the agnosticism of the titanic philosopher Immanuel Kant, who argued that it is impossible for science or philosophy to acquire knowledge of the metaphysical realm of God. It was declared that all knowledge must be restricted to the realm of the natural. With the combination of Kant‘s agnosticism and the hypothesis of the Enlightenment, the door was open wide to a thoroughgoing philosophy of naturalism. This philosophy captured in its wake the academic theologians of Europe in the nineteenth century. Out of this came nineteenth-century liberalism with its militant anti-supernatural perspective. The liberalism of that era denied all of the supernatural elements of the Christian faith, including the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles, His atoning death, and His resurrection. The impact of liberalism and neo-liberalism on the church left it basically as a worldly, nature-bound religion that sought refuge in a humanitarian social agenda. This is the approach to Christianity that has all but completely captured many of today‘s mainline churches throughout the world. However, in the last few decades, we have witnessed a comeback of sorts of the supernatural. Yet this increasing interest in the supernatural has been driven in large measure by a fascination with the occult. People are now interested in demons, witches, spiritualists, and other occultic phenomena. The Christianity of the Bible is a religion that is uncompromisingly supernatural. If we take away the supernatural, we take away Christianity. At the heart of the worldview of both Testaments is the idea that the realm of nature is created by One who transcends that


nature. With the renewed interest in the supernatural that comes with the occult, we must be ever vigilant to make sure that whatever understanding we have of the supernatural is an understanding that is informed by the Bible and not by paganism. Sheer naturalism is paganism with a vengeance, but so is the occult. What we need is an understanding of the supernatural that comes to us from the supernatural, from the Author of the supernatural, who reveals to us in His Word the content of the supernatural realm – so that our understanding of angels, or demons, or of spiritual beings comes from God‘s self-revelation and not from human speculation, neo-gnostic magic, or other forms of pagan intrusions.


Addendum B WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM Q1: What is the chief end of man? A1: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever. Q2: What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him? A2: The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him. Q3: What do the Scriptures principally teach? A3: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man. Q4: What is God? A4: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Q5: Are there more Gods than one? A5: There is but one only, the living and true God. Q6: How many persons are there in the Godhead? A6: There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. Q7: What are the decrees of God? A7: The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass. Q8: How doth God execute his decrees? A8: God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence. Q9: What is the work of creation? A9: The work of creation is, God's making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good. Q10: How did God create man?


A10: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures. Q11: What are God's works of providence? A11: God's works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions. Q12: What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created? A12: When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death. Q13: Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created? A13: Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God. Q14: What is sin? A14: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. Q15: What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created? A15: The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit. Q16: Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression? A16: The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression. Q17: Into what estate did the fall bring mankind? A17: The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery. Q18: Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell? A18: The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called Original Sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it. Q19: What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?


A19: All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever. Q20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery? A20. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer. Q21: Who is the Redeemer of God's elect? A21: The only Redeemer of God's elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever. Q22: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man? A22: Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her yet without sin. Q23: What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer? A23: Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation. Q24: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet? A24: Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. Q25: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest? A25: Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us. Q26: How doth Christ execute the office of a king? A26: Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. Q27: Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist? A27: Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.


Q28: Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? A28: Christ's exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day. Q29: How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? A29: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit. Q30: How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ? A30: The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling. Q31: What is effectual calling? A31: Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. Q32: What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life? A32: They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them. Q33: What is justification? A33: Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone. Q34: What is adoption? A34: Adoption is an act of God's free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the Sons of God. Q35: What is sanctification? A35: Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.


Q36: What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? A36: The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end. Q37: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death? A37: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection. Q38: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? A38: At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgement, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity. Q39. What is the duty which God requireth of man? A39. The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to His revealed will. Q40. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience? A40. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the Moral Law. Q41. Where is the Moral Law summarily comprehended? A41. The Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments. Q42. What is the sum of the Ten Commandments? A42. The sum of the Ten Commandments is, "to love the Lord our God" with all our heart, all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves. Q43. What is the preface to the Ten Commandments? A43. The preface to the Ten Commandments is in these words, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house OF SLAVERY." Q44. What doth the preface to the Ten Commandments teach us? A44. The preface to the Ten Commandments teacheth us, That because God is The Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all His commandments.


Q45: Which is the First Commandment? A45: The First Commandment is, "thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Q46: What is required in the First Commandment? A46: The First Commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify Him accordingly. Q47: What is forbidden in the First Commandment? A47: The First Commandment forbiddeth the denying, or not worshipping and glorifying the true God, as God, [and our God,] and the giving of that worship and glory to any other which is due to Him alone. Q48: What are we specially taught by these words, "before me" in the First Commandment? A48: These words "before me" in the First Commandment, teach us, That God who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God. Q49: Which is the Second Commandment? A49: The Second Commandment is, "thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth, thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep my commandments." Q50: What is required in the Second Commandment? A50: The Second Commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in His Word. Q51: What is forbidden in the Second Commandment? A51: The Second Commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in His Word. Q52: What are the reasons annexed to the Second Commandment? A52: The reasoned annexed to the Second Commandment are, God's sovereignty over us, and the zeal He hath to His own worship.


Q53: Which is the Third Commandment? A53: The Third Commandment is, "thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain." Q54: What is required in the Third Commandment? A54: The Third Commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God's names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works. Q55: What is forbidden in the Third Commandment? A55: The Third Commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing [of] anything whereby God maketh Himself known. Q56: What is the reason annexed to the Third Commandment? A56: The reason annexed to the Third Commandment is, That however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape His righteous judgement. Q57: Which is the Fourth Commandment? A57: The Fourth Commandment is, "Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maid- servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Q58: What is required in the Fourth Commandment? A58: The Fourth Commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as He appointed in His Word; expressly one whole day in seven to be a holy Sabbath to Himself. Q59: Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath? A59: From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath. Q60: How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?


A60: The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy. Q61: What is forbidden in the Fourth Commandment? A61: The Fourth Commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations. Q62: What are the reasons annexed to the Fourth Commandment? A62: The reasons annexed to the Fourth Commandment are, God's allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, His challenging a special propriety in the seventh, His own example, and His blessing the Sabbath-day. Q63: Which is the Fifth Commandment? A63: The Fifth Commandment is, "honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Q64: What is required in the Fifth Commandment? A64: The Fifth Commandment requireth the preserving the honour, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals. Q65: What is the forbidden in the Fifth Commandment? A65: The Fifth Commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honour and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations. Q66: What is the reason annexed to the Fifth Commandment? A66: The reason annexed to the Fifth Commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God's glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment. Q67: Which is the Sixth Commandment? A67: The Sixth Commandment is, "thou shalt not kill." Q68: What is required in the Sixth Commandment?


A68: The Sixth Commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others. Q69: What is forbidden in the Sixth Commandment? A69: The Sixth Commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto. Q70: Which is the Seventh Commandment? A70: The Seventh Commandment is, "thou shalt not commit adultery." Q71: What is required in the Seventh Commandment? A71: The Seventh Commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor's chasity, in heart, speech, and behaviour. Q72: What is forbidden in the Seventh Commandment? A72: The Seventh Commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. Q73: Which is the Eighth Commandment? A73: The Eighth Commandment is, "thou shalt not steal." Q74: What is required in the Eighth Commandment? A74: The Eighth Commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. Q75: What is forbidden in the Eighth Commandment? A75: The Eighth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour's wealth or outward estate. Q76: What is the Ninth Commandment? A76: The Ninth Commandment is, "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." Q77: What is required in the Ninth Commandment? A77: The Ninth Commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour's good name, especially in witness- bearing. Q78: What is forbidden in the Ninth Commandment? A78: The Ninth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudical to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbour's good name. Q79: Which is the Tenth Commandment?


A79: The Tenth Commandment is, "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." Q80: What is required in the Tenth Commandment? A80: The Tenth Commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all this is his. Q81: What is forbidden in the Tenth Commandment? A81: The Tenth Commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions and affections to any thing that is his. Q82: Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God? A82: No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed. Q83: Are all transgression of the law equally heinous? A83: Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations are more heinous in the sight of God than others. Q84: What doth every sin deserve? A84: Every sin deserveth God's wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come. Q85: What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin? A85: To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption. Q86: What is faith in Jesus Christ? A86: Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel. Q87: What is repentance unto life? A87: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.


Q88: What are the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption? A88: The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation. Q89: How is the Word made effectual to salvation? A89: The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation. Q90: How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation? A90: The the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practise it in our lives. Q91: How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation? A91: The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them. Q92: What is a sacrament? A92: A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers. Q93: Which are the sacraments of the New Testament? A93: The sacraments of the New Testament are, Baptism, and the Lord's supper. Q94: What is baptism? A94: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord's. Q95: To whom is baptism to be administered? A95: Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to


him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized. Q96: What is the Lord's supper? A96: The Lord's Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ's appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worth receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace. Q97: What is required to be the worthy receiving of the Lord's supper? A97: It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord's super, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgement to themselves. Q98: What is prayer? A98: Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies. Q99: What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer? A99: The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord's Prayer. Q100: What doth the preface of the Lord's prayer teach us? A100: The preface of the Lord's prayer, which is, "Our Father which art in heaven," teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others. Q101: What do we pray for in the first petition? A101: In the first petition, which is, "Hallowed be thy name," we pray, That God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory. Q102: What do we pray for in the second petition? A102: In the second petition, which is, "Thy kingdom come," we pray, That Satan's kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and the kingdom of glory may be hastened.


Q103: What do we pray for in the third petition? A103: In the third petition, which is, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," we pray, That God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven. Q104: What do we pray for in the fourth petition? A104: In the fourth petition, which is, "Give us this day our daily bread," we pray, That of God's free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them. Q105: What do we pray for in the fifth petition? A105: In the fifth petition, which is, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," we pray, That God, for Christ's sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are able to be rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others. Q106: What do we pray for in the sixth petition? A106: In the sixth petition, which is, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," we pray, That God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted. Q107: What doth the conclusion the Lord's prayer teach us? A107: The conclusion of the Lord's prayer, which is, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen." teacheth us, to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power and glory to him. And, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard,


How Shall I Live in This World  

book by Richard Jones