Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is Atheism a Religion?

The question of whether or not atheism constitutes a religion appeared in a discussion today. I responded with a comment I want to capture here.

Who is to state that religion must incorporate a supernatural deity? Religion is a belief system dependent on some form of "faith". The atheist places his trust or faith in himself in insisting that God does not exist. He then postulates on his supposed moral compass that is assumed on the basis of faith. There is no evidence of an atheist morality yet every atheist will claim a moral standard. By faith he accepts moral guidance. By faith he denies any other god but himself. Atheism is truly a religion of a particular faith, faith in oneself.

Perhaps I have taken it upon myself in an inappropriate manner to define “religion”. I have always been intrigued by atheist claims of a moral compass or guidance, that all humans have a sense of morality that is innate to our species. This is clearly an expression of faith. I would think that rational non-believers would prefer the agnostic approach than the hard and fast, committed atheist stance with its faith driven absolutism.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Elect in the Son, Robert Shank

It has been nearly forty three years since Robert Shank published his seminal work, Elect in the Son, and that being ten years following his examination of perseverance, Life in theSon. Both are books that I have previously read in years past and recently the topic of election sparked a renewed interest, on my part, of Shank’s contribution. Dr. Shank suffered great rejection and whispered condemnation among many of his Baptist brethren when he first published “Life”, made all the more remarkable by the lack of any substantial repudiation of his exegesis and conclusions. To this day I have not found a credible rebuttal of his work and I hope that opinion is not shaded by any excessive Arminian sympathies on my part. To that end I have undertaken a re-reading of both volumes. During the first introduction to Dr. Shank, I was quite firmly in the Wesleyan camp and his conclusion reinforced much of the theology I was accustomed to. Since then, the classical Arminian position holds a greater sway theologically and this new exploration of these great books  should give me an opportunity to better evaluation the conclusions and exegesis presented.

As I started reading “Elect in the Son”, the first chapter captured my attention for a couple of readings and I want to record it here for future reference and consideration. The comments struck as profound and worthy of meditation.

“Thy Kingdom Come”1
In a day when the foundations of society are crumbling, a day of gathering storm and deepening gloom, a day of unprecedented peril in which thoughtful men speak of the collapse of civilization and the possible annihilation of cities and nations – even of mankind, the sovereignty of God is an unfailing encouragement that lights the path of the just and affords assurance to all the faithful, who take great comfort in the words of James in the historic council of the church at Jerusalem: “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).

God, who has “declared the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,” has said, “My council shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). He who “works all things after the council of His own will” is at work in the world in these momentous times, moving inexorably toward fulfillment of an eternal purpose that antedates creation and gives meaning to human history. History, by divine appointment, is teleological, and the sweep of human events, whatever the sound and fury, moves toward the appointed end: “Thy kingdom come.”

Nothing in the course of events can alter the appointed outcome. The unfolding of the days and years, whatever their number, ultimately will issue in all that was foretold by the prophets of old, by our LORD, and by His Apostles. The witness of history past, confirming “the prophetic word made more sure” (2 Pet. 1:19), attests that the human events ever move toward the inevitable denouement on which creation itself is predicated: “the coming of the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world”.

There is, of course, a sense in which the kingdom of God is eternally present rather than prospective, coexistent with Him who “before the mountains were brought forth or ever He had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, is God” (Ps. 90:2). But the kingdom of God, as proclaimed and anticipated by both Jesus and the Apostles and the prophets of old, is yet future and awaits its manifestation at the end of the age, to appear in a moment of spectacular divine intervention at the coming of Christ in power and judgment … but appearing also as the consummation of a long process, as implied by many of our LORD’s parables

Why a long process? Why not, instead, instant kingdom? Could not God, in the act of a moment, have created the everlasting kingdom He purposed from eternity? Are not all things possible with God?
All things are indeed possible for God, but only within the limitations of consistency with His own nature and being. God cannot lie, for example, nor can He change, nor can He deny Himself. We may reverently assume that, for the kind of kingdom He intends, God is following the only possible course: the process of human history.

The process comprehends all that God has done, beginning even before His mighty acts of creation when He “laid the foundations of the earth and the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4,7). It comprehends the creation of man in the image and likeness of God and the entrance of sin into human experience in the disobedience of man to the world and will of his Creator.

The process comprehends the moral self-discoveries and the redemptive revelations and encounters experienced by the patriarchs of old and all the faithful of their generations. It comprehends the experiences of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and a nation descended from them, and the judges and kings and prophets who appeared among them.

The process comprehends the redemptive mission of Jesus, unfolded in His incarnation, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and ultimate return in righteous judgment. It comprehends the labors of the Apostles and the witness of the Church to Christ and His saving Gospel in all generations until the coming of the King and the kingdom.

The process whereby God is creating the kingdom which He purposed before the world began comprehends “all nations of men … on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26) and involves every man. Human history in its totality is the milieu in which the everlasting kingdom is being wrought … and in which the election determined by God from before creation – an election wholly identified with the kingdom – is being realized.

“Thy kingdom come” – the kingdom which was the concern of Jesus in the days of His flesh, the burden of His preaching, the subject of splendid promises and solemn warnings, and the central theme of all His teachings from the beginning of His ministry to the time of His ascension (Acts 1:3). Thy kingdom come!

And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen – Psalm 72:19

1 Elect in the Son, Robert L. Shank, Bethany House, Bloomington, MN 1970, 1989, pp  21-23

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Coo Coo For Cocoa Puffs

Urban Dictionary defines Coo Coo for Cocoa Puffs as ... a strictly medical term, used to describe a patient or person that has delved into a realm of irrational, illogical and/or crazy thought processes; Affected with madness; insane to an exceeding degree characterized by weakness or feebleness; decrepit; broken; falling to decay; shaky; unsafe; foolish
See that guy trying to put that square peg into that round hole? I think he's gone coo coo for cocoa puffs!
I think William Lane Craig has provided another potential  use of the phrase with his comments regarding Calvinist divine determinism that might look something like this.

See that guy trying to square his universal divine determinism with scripture and sound reason? I think he's gone coo coo for cocoa puffs!

From Craig's Website:
Universal causal determinism cannot be rationally affirmed. There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.

Read more:

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

God doesn't make mistakes

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

So Little Time ...

"You worship the God of Humanism". That's what Johnny Calvinist said to me. If he changed just the last three letters of his profound statement he might have impressed me. "I worship the God of humanity", I reply. I think that stumps him and he returns to the 3rd round of the UFC championship bout. He will be back to ensure his victory. I wait with bated breath.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Interesting Tidbits

Thoughts to consider ...

Peter Lumpkins, Spurgeon--No man perishes through Adam’s sin only...
Lumpkins presents a curious tension between Spurgeon's thoughts on the condition of infants and the general Calvinist doctrines on inherited guilt.

Olson tackles the age old problem of Calvinist slander and libel as it regards Arminianism with another example of Calvinist authorship.

Birch addresses the misrepresentation of Arminian doctrine by those who confuse the unscriptural teaching of determinism for the sovereignty of God.

Brown asks "Is God hurting too?"

John G. Stackhouse, Jr, Why 'Mere Christianity' Should Have Bombed
Stackhouse offers a timely review of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.

Jeremiah 18: 1-10

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jer 18:1-10 AV)

As students of scripture we have to be careful in applying one passage of scripture to another and not make the mistake of attributing more than should be considered to a passage by another author. On the other hand we should also be aware of how writers such as Paul used Old Testament references when explaining how God interacted with Israel and the Gentiles as he did in Romans chapter nine (v.22 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?). Many commentators bring Paul's statement and discussion back to the above passage from Jeremiah (Forlines, Clark and others) to assist the believer in understanding God's transitions between Jews and Gentiles. Bruce's commentary on Romans notes the unique content of Romans chapters nine through eleven as dealing with this same theme. It is only wise scholarship to understand the sources of a primary author's thoughts, in this case Paul and his use of Jeremiah. There are several commentaries that address the passage from Jeremiah and I have appreciated Adam Clarke's thoughts below on this matter.

Adam Clarke’s select commentary on the above passage (abridged verse 6):

Have I not a right to do with a people whom I have created as reason and justice may require? If they do not answer my intentions, may I not reject and destroy them; and act as this potter, make a new vessel out of that which at first did not succeed in his hands? It is generally supposed that St. Paul has made a very different use of this similitude from that mentioned above. See Rom 9:20. His words are, "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" To this every sensible and pious man will answer, Undoubtedly he has. But would any potter make an exceedingly fair and good vessel on purpose to dash it to pieces when he had done? Surely no! And would or could, the God of infinite perfection and love make millions of immortal souls on purpose for eternal perdition, as the horrible decree of reprobation states? No! This is a lie against all the attributes of God. But does not the text state that he can, out of the same lump, the same mass of human nature, make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour? Yes. But the text does not say, what the horrible decree says, that he makes one part, and indeed the greater, for eternal perdition. But what then is the meaning of the text? Why evidently this: As out of the same mass of clay a potter may make a flagon for the table and a certain utensil for the chamber, the one for a more honourable, the other for a less honourable use, though both equally necessary to the owner; so God, out of the same flesh and blood, may make the tiller of the field and the prophet of the Most High; the one in a more honourable, the other in a less honourable employ; yet both equally necessary in the world, and equally capable of bringing glory to God in their respective places. But if the vessel be marred in his hand, under his providential and gracious dealings, he may reject it as he did the Jews, and make another vessel, such as he is pleased with, of the Gentiles; yet even these marred vessels, the reprobate Jews, are not finally rejected; for all Israel shall be saved in (through) the Lord, i.e., Jesus Christ. And should the Gentiles act as the Jews have done, then they also shall be cut off, and God will call his Church by another name. See on Romans 9:22.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Psalm 122

In the midst of the evil that surrounds the City of God in this modern day with even former friends now her enemy, all Christians should be of one mind concerning the peace of Jerusalem. Sadly this is not the case with all churches. Liberalism embraces the enemy of Israel and the churches that are swallowed up in it are often unwitting advocates for those who desire the slaughter of Israel. I believe it is an apostate church that allies itself with Islamist enemies of God. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all of Israel.

 A Song of degrees of David.   I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.” (Ps 122:1-9 AV)

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Arminius on Idolatry

Respondent: Japhet Vigerius

I. It always has been, and is now, the chief design of diabolical perverseness, — that even the devil himself, should be considered and worshipped as a deity — than which nothing can be more reproachful and insulting to the true God; or that all thought and mention of a Deity being removed, pure atheism might obtain, and, after conscience was taken away, men might be hurried along into every kind of flagitious wickedness. But since he could not effect this, on account of the notion of a Deity, and indeed of a good one, which is deeply impressed on the minds of men; and since he knew it to be the will of the true God that he should himself alone be considered and worshipped as God, without any image; (Exod. xx, 3-5; Deut. xxxii, 17; 1 Cor. x, 20;) the devil has been trying to persuade men to consider and worship as God some figment of their own brain or some kind of creature, or, at least, to worship the true God in an image. In former days he had great success in these, his attempts; and would to God that in our times they were utterly fruitless! We might then be emboldened to enter on this discussion, merely for the purpose of knowing what idolatry is, and the description of it which anciently prevailed among Jews and gentiles, without being solicitous to deliver any admonition or caution respecting it. But since, alas, this evil holds domination far and wide in Christendom itself, we will, by divine aid, briefly treat upon it in these theses, both for the purpose of knowing what it is, and of giving some cautions and dehortations against it.

II. Commencing, therefore, with the etymology of the word, we say, Eidwlon an idol, generally, signifies some representation and image, whether it be conceived only in the mind or framed by the hands, and whether it be that of a thing which never had an existence, or of something which does exist. But, according to Scripture usage, and that of the sacred writers, it signifies, (1.) An image fashioned for the purpose of representing and honouring a deity, whether true or false. (2.) Every false divinity, whether it be the pure figment of the human brain, or any thing existing among the creatures of God, and thus real, according to its absolute essence, because it is something; but false with regard to its relative essence, because it is not a Divinity, which yet it is feigned to be, and for which it is accounted. (Exod. xx, 4; Acts vii, 41; Psalm cxv, 4-8; 1 John v, 21; 1 Cor. viii, 4; 1 Thess. i, 9; Col. iii, 5; Deut. vi, 13; xiii, 6; Matt. iv, 10; Deut. v, 6-9.) Latreuein (idolatry) signifies, in its general acceptation "to render service, or worship," "to wait upon"; in Hebrew, db: But in the Scriptures, and among ecclesiastical writers, it is peculiarly employed about acts of] religious worship and service; such as these — to render love, honour, and fear to God — to repose hope and confidence in him — to invoke him — to give him thanks for benefits received — to obey his commands without exception — and to swear by his name. (Mal. i, 6; Psalm xxxvii, 3; 1, 15; Deut. vi, 13.)

III. Idolatry, therefore, according to the etymology of the word, is "service rendered to an idol"; but, with regard to fact, it is when divine worship is paid to any other than the true God, whether that be done by an erroneous judgment of the mind, by which that is esteemed as a God which is no God, or it be done solely by the performance of such worship, though he who renders it be aware that the idol is not God, and though he protest that he does not esteem it as a God, since his protestation is contrary to fact. (Isa. xlii, 8; Gal. iv, 8; Exod. xxxii, 4, 5.) In proof of this, the belly, covetousness, and idolatry, are severally said to be the god of some people, and covetous men are called "idolaters." (Phil. iii, 19; Col. iii, 5; Ephes. v, 5.) But so far is that opinion or knowledge (by which he does not esteem the idol as a god) from acquitting him of idolatry, who adores, invokes, and kneels to it, that from the very circumstance of his thus invoking, adoring, and kneeling to an idol, he may rather be said to esteem that as a god, which, according to his own opinion, he does not consider to be a god. (1 Cor. x, 19, 20.) This is to say to the wood, with one portion of which he has kindled the fire of his hearth and of his oven, and from another has fashioned to himself a god, "Deliver me; for thou art my god," (Isa. xliv, 15, 17,) and to a stone, "Thou hast begotten me." (Jer. ii, 27.)

IV. Idolatry is also of two kinds. The First is, when that which is not God is accounted and worshipped as God. (Exod. xx, 3-5.) The Second is, when that which is either truly or falsely accounted for God is fashioned into a corporeal image, and is worshipped in an image, or according to an image. The former of these is prohibited in the first commandment: "Thou shalt not have other gods," or "another god, before me," or "beside me." The latter, in the second command, "Thou shalt not make unto thyself any likeness; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them." (Exod. xx, 3-5; 1 Cor. x, 7.) From this, it appears, that idolatry may also be considered in another view, and in three different ways. The First mode is, when the true God is worshipped in an image. The Second is, when a false god is worshipped. The Third, which partakes of both, is when a false god is worshipped in an image. The first mode is of a more venial description than the second, according to that passage, "And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing, for Ahab to walk in the sins of Jeroboam," who had worshipped Jehovah in calves, and had taught others to do the same, "that he went and served Baal, and bowed himself down before him." (1 Kings xvi, 31.) The third mode is the worst of all; for it consists of a double falsehood, of a feigned divinity, to whom such worship does not belong, and of an assimilated divinity, when of The One to whom it is an assimilation, it is not a likeness. (Isa. xl, 19, 20; Jer. x,
14) Varro has observed that, by the last of these modes, all fear of God has been taken away, and error has been added to mortals.

V. In the prohibition, that the children of Israel should have no God except Jehovah, the Scriptures employ three words to express "another God." The first is r j a  (Exod. xx, 3) The second, d z  and the third, r k r  (Psalm lxxxi, 9.) The first signifies, generally, "any other god"; the second, "a strange god; , and the third, "a strange and foreign god." But though these words are not so opposed to each other, as not occasionally to coincide, and to be indiscriminately used about a god that is not the TRUE ONE; yet, from a collation of them as they are used in the Scriptures, it is easy to collect that "another god" may be conceived under a three- fold difference; for they were either invented by their first worshipers; or they were received from their ancestors, or they were taken from other nations. (Deut. xxxi, 16, 17.) The last of these occurs, (1.) Either by some necessity, of which David complains, when he says, "They have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of Jehovah, saying, Go, serve other gods.(1 Sam. xxvi, 19.) (2.) Or by persuasion; as the heart of Solomon was inclined by his wives to worship other gods. (1 Kings xi, 4, 5.) (3.) Or by the mere choice of the will; as Amaziah took the gods of the children of Seir, after he had come from the slaughter of the Edomites. (2 Chron. xxv, 14.) In these degrees the Scriptures present to us a difference between a greater and a less offense. For since Jeroboam is frequently accused of having made Israel to sin and of increasing the crime of idolatry; (1 Kings xii, 30; xiv, 16;) and since the children of Israel are often said to have "provoked God to jealousy with strange gods, whom they knew not and whom their fathers did not fear," (Deut. xxxii, 16,) it appears that the invention or fabrication of a new god is a more grievous crime, than the adoration of "another god" whom they received from their ancestry. And since it greatly contributes to the dishonour and reproach of Jehovah, to take the gods of foreign nations as objects of worship, by which, those gods plainly seem to be preferred to Jehovah, and the religion of those nations, to the law of Jehovah, this crime, therefore, is, of all others, by far the most grievous. (Jer. ii, 11, 13.)

VI. In the prescription of the second command, that nothing which is esteemed as a god be worshipped in an image, the Scriptures most solicitously guard against the possibility of the human mind finding out any evasion or lurking place. For, with regard to the matter, they forbade images to be made of gold and silver, the most precious of the metals, and therefore, of any metal whatever, or of wood or stone. (Exod. xx, 23; Isa. xliv, 12 13; Jer. ii, 27.) It prohibits every form, whether the image represent a living creature, any thing in the heavens, the sun, the moon, or the stars; any thing on the earth or under the earth, a man, a quadruped, a flying creature, a fish or a serpent, or a thing that has no existence, but by the madness and vanity of the human brain is compounded of different shapes, such as a monster, the upper parts of which are human, and the lower parts those of an ox; or one whose upper parts are those of an ox, and the lower, those of a man; or one, the higher parts of which are those of a beautiful woman, and the lower those of a fish, terminating in a tail. It prohibits every mode of making them, whether they be formed by fusion, by sculpture, or by painting; (Jer. x, 3, 9, 14; Ezek. viii, 10, 11;) because it says uinversally, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any likeness." And it adds a reason which excludes generally every kind of material and every method of fabrication: "For ye saw no manner of similitude, on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire. Take ye, therefore, good heed unto your souls, lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure," &c. (Deut. iv, 15-19.)

VII. But with regard to the mode of worship, and to the actions pertaining to it, scarcely any thing can be devised or invented, and can be performed to idols, (that is, both to false deities themselves and to the images of false divinities, and to those of the true God,) which is not expressly said in the Scriptures to be hateful to God, that no one may have the least pretext for his ignorance. For the Scriptures take away all honour and service from them, whatever may be the manner in which they are performed, whether by building temples, high places or groves by erecting altars, and by placing images upon altars; or by offering sacrifices, burning incense, by eating that which is offered in sacrifice to idols, by bending the knees to them, by bestowing kisses on them, and by carrying them on their shoulders. (Exod. xx, 5; 1 Kings xi, 7; xii, 31-33; 2 Kings xvii, 35; Ezek. viii, 11; Num. xxv, 2; 1 Kings xix, 18; Isa. xlv, 20; Jer. x, 5.) The Scriptures also prohibit men from placing hope and trust in idols, forbid invocation, prayers and thanksgivings to be directed to them, and will not suffer men to fear them and to swear by them; because idols are as unable to save as to inflict injury. (Psalm cxv, 8; Jer. v, 7.) The Scriptures do not permit men to yield obedience to idols, because a graven image is a teacher of lies and vanity; (Jer. ii, 5-8, 20; xi, 8-13;) and false gods often require of their worshipers those things from which all nature, created and uncreated, that of God and of man, is most abhorrent. (Lev. xviii, 21.)

VIII. But, because the human mind is both inclined and fitted to excogitate and invent excuses, nay even justifications, for sins, particularly for the sin of idolatry, and because the pretext of a good intention to honour the Deity serves the more readily as a plea for it, this propensity of mind, on account of conscience not equally accusing a man either for the worship which he offers to a false divinity, or for that which he presents to the true God in an image, as it does for the total omission of worship, and for a sin committed against the rules of equity and goodness which prevail among mankind; our attention will be profitably called to the consideration of what is the judgment of God concerning this matter, by whose judgment we must stand or fall. Let us take our commencement at that species by which the true Deity is worshipped in an image, as Jehovah was in the calf which Aaron fashioned, and in those which were made by Jeroboam. (Exod. xxxii, 4; 1 Kings xii, 28.) God has manifested this, his judgment, by his word and by his acts. (1.) First, by his word of declaration, God has shewn what are his sentiments both concerning the fabrication of an image and the worship offered to it. The Fabrication, he says, is "a changing of the glory of the incorruptible God into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to four- footed beasts, and creeping things." (Psalm civ, 20; Rom. i, 23.) But the Worship, he says, is offered, not to God, whom they wished to represent by an image, but to the calf itself, and to the image which they had fabricated. (1 Kings xii, 32.) For these are his words: "They have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto." (Exod. xxxii, 8.) And St. Stephen says, "They made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol." (Acts vii, 41.) On this account also he calls them, "gods of gold and silver," "other gods and molten images." (Exod. xxxii, 31; 1 Kings xiv, 9.) Secondly, by His word of threatening, by which he denounces destruction to those who worshipped the calf that Aaron formed, and to Jeroboam and his posterity. (Exod. xxxii, 9, 10; 1 Kings xiv, 10, 11.) (2.) God has also displayed his judgment about idolatry by his acts. He not only fulfilled this, his word of threatening, by cutting off Jeroboam and his posterity, (2 Chron. xiii, 15-20,) and by destroying many thousands of the Israelites; (Exod. xxxii, 28;) but likewise by chastising similar sinners by another horrible punishment, that of blindness, and of being delivered over to a reprobate mind." (Rom. i, 24-28.)

IX. Such, then, is the judgment of God concerning that species of idolatry which is committed with the intention of worshipping that God who is truly God. Let us now see how severe this judgment is against that species in which the intention is to offer worship to that which is not the true God, to another god, to Moloch, Baal, Chemosh, Baal-peor, and to similar false gods, though they were esteemed as gods by their worshipers. (Deut. xxix, 17; xxxii, 14-17.) Of this, his judgment, God has afforded most convincing indications, both by his word and his acts. In this word of declaration two things occur, which are most signal indications of this. First is, that he interprets this act as a desertion of God, a defection from the true God, a perfidious dissolution of the conjugal bond by spiritual adultery with another, and a provoking of God himself to jealousy. The Second is, that he says this adultery is committed with demons and devils. For these are some of the strains of Moses in his very celebrated song: "They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not," &c. (Deut. xxxii, 17.) And the royal psalmist sings thus: "They sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, unto the idols of Canaan," (Psalm civ, 37, 38,) which they did when they compelled any of their offspring to pass through the fire to Moloch. (Lev. xviii, 21.) The apostle Paul agrees with this when he says, "The things which the gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God"; (1 Cor. x, 20;) whether this signifies, that some demon lay concealed in those images; or that those sacred rites were performed according to the will and prescription of demons, either openly, by oracles, responses, and the verses of prophesying poets, or secretly by the institutes or maxims of the world, (Arnob. lib. 6; Aug. de Civ. Del. lib. 8, 23,) that is, of wicked people, of whom Satan is called "the prince," and among whom he is said to have his throne. (1 Pet. iv, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 4; Rev. ii, 13.) The denunciations of punishments for this crime, and the execution of these threats, are described generally throughout the whole of the sacred Scriptures.

X. If the things, thus explained from the Scriptures, be applied to Latriav, the divine adorations, and to Qrhskeiav, the religious ceremonies or superstitions which are employed in the popish church; it will clearly appear, that she is guilty of the crime of the two-fold idolatry which has now been described. (Thesis 4.) Of the First Kind she renders herself guilty, because she presents divine worship to the bread in the Lord’s supper, to the virgin Mary, to angels and departed saints, to the relics of Christ’s cross and of the saints, and to things consecrated. Of the Second Kind she renders herself guilty, because her members worship, in an image, God, Christ, the cross of Christ, the virgin Mary, angels and saints. Each of these charges shall be demonstrated; and, we will confirm them in as brief a manner as possible, after having closed up all the evasions, through which the worshipers of idols try to creep out when they are held fast bound.

XI. 1. First. Concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, to which "all the faithful in Christ, according to the method always received in the Roman Catholic church, present in veneration the worship of latria, or supreme adoration, which is due to the true God. Nor is this most holy sacrament to be the less adored because it was instituted by Christ our Lord, that it might be received, as the Council of Trent says, (Session 13, 5,) when it frees us from one part of the sacrament. To this we subjoin, in the discharge of another part of the duty we have undertaken: But the worship of latria or supreme adoration, cannot be paid to the sacrament of the eucharist without idolatry. (1.) It cannot be paid even in the use of the eucharist, because bread continues to be bread still, with regard to its substance, and it is not transubstantiated or changed into the body of Christ by consecration. For the eucharist would thus cease to be a sacrament, of whose essence it is to consist of an external thing; and the body of Christ would thus begin to exist anew; for nothing can be changed into that which had no previous existence. (2.) Much less can this worship be paid to the sacrament in its abuse. Because, though a legitimate consecration might be supposed to have the power of transubstantiating, yet an illegitimate consecration cannot effect a transubstantiation. For all right of consecration depends on the divine institution: but a consecration to adore, and not to receive, is foreign to the design of the institution, and therefore inefficacious. (Matt. xxvi, 26; 1 Corinthians x, 16; xi, 25.) Therefore, the Roman Catholic church commits idolatry, as she presents to the sacrament of the eucharist the service of latria, or supreme adoration, which is due to the true God alone.

XII. Secondly. In the worship which the papists perform to the virgin Mary, angels and departed saints, we say they commit idolatry in two ways — in reference to the act of adoring them, and to that of invoking them. (1 Kings xix, 18; 2 Kings xvii, 11,16, 35.) (1.) In adoring them, when they do reverence to all and to each of them by altars, masses, festivals or holy days, vigils, fasts, images, candles, offerings, by burning incense, by vows, pilgrimages, and genuflections. All these acts relate to latria or supreme adoration, and to divine worship, when presented to the true God according to his will, or to false gods through the superstition of men. (2.) In invoking them, when the papists "betake themselves to the prayers, and to the help and assistance, afforded by the saints," as the Council of Trent says, (Session 25,) and when they return thanks to them for the benefits which they receive. (Lombard. lib. 4, dist. 25.) But they have this recourse to the Prayers of angels and saints, as their intercessors, mediators, patrons and advocates, who intercede. (1.) With a pious affection, by which they desire the wishes of those who pray to them, to be fulfilled. (2.) With their glorious and most holy merits, which are presented in favour of those who, with suppliant intreaties, require their prayers. They have this recourse, also, to the Help and Assistance of angels and saints, as to auxiliaries or helpers, preservers and the guardians of grace and glory; that is, the liberal dispensers of all blessings, their deliverers in necessities, whom they also denominate their life, salvation, safety, hope, defense, refuse, solace, yea, their only hope, and their safe fortress. But these are titles which belong to God and Christ alone, as the decorations of the highest excellence, wisdom, benevolence and power; than which nothing can be conceived more illustrious, as is manifest from the Scriptures, in which these titles are read as attributed to God and Christ; (Psalm xlvi, 1, 2; xviii, 1, 2; xxxvi, 7, 10; lxii, 2, 3, 6; Isa. xlv, 20; Acts iv, 12;) when the supreme honour of invocation and adoration is offered to them by holy men. And though the turpitude of this idolatry be exceedingly foul and disgusting, yet how immensely is it aggravated by rendering the reason which serves as a pretext to them for that deed; than which reason nothing can be imagined to be more injurious to God and Christ. (1.) To God, when the papists say that our heavenly Father has given half of his kingdom to the blessed virgin, the queen of heaven, whom they also denominate "the mistress of the world," "the star of the sea," "the haven or port of salvation," and "God"; (Gul. Biel. in Can. Miss. Lect. 80;) and when they say that since God has both justice and mercy, he retains the former of these himself, but has granted the exercise of mercy to his virgin mother, and therefore, that we must appeal from the court of the justice of God to the court of the mercy of his mother. (2.) To Christ, nothing can be more injurious than this; because the papists say that Christ is not only an advocate, but that he is a judge, and as such, will discuss all things, so that nothing will remain unpunished; and therefore, that God has provided for us a female advocate, who is full of mildness and suavity, and in whom is found nothing that is harsh or unpleasant, who is, also, on this account, called "the throne of Christ," on which he reposed. (Anton. page 4, tit. 15, cap. 14.)

XIII. Thirdly. That the papists defile themselves with idolatry in paying reverence to the relics of the cross of Christ and of the saints, by performing unto them acts both of adoration and of invocation, is proved, partly from their own confession, and partly from the very exercise of those religious acts which they offer to them. (1.) The Council of Trent publishes the confession, when it says, (Session 25,) "Those persons are to be wholly condemned, who affirm that honour and veneration are not due to the relics of saints; or that those relics, and other sacred monuments, are unprofitably honoured by the faithful; and that resort is vainly made to the sepulchers of saints, for the purpose of obtaining their assistance." The next confessor on this subject is "the angelical doctor," who is believed to have written all things well concerning Christ. For he says, (Sum.
p. 3, Qu, 25,) that the adoration of latria, or supreme worship, must be given to the cross of Christ on account of the contract into which it came with the members of the body of Christ. This is a reason quite sufficient to Antoninus to affirm (Anton. p. 3, tit. 12, c. 5) that not only is the cross of Christ to be adored, but likewise all things belonging to it — the nails, the spear, the vestments, and even the sacred tabernacles. In accordance with these confessions, the Roman Catholic church sings, "Behold the wood of the Cross! We adore thy cross, O Lord." (2.) Another method the papists have of declaring their idolatry by various acts — when they adorn the relics of the cross of Christ and of the saints, with gold, silver, and jewels; when they wrap them in fine lawn napkins and in pieces of silk or velvet; when they carry them about with great pomp, in processions instituted for the purpose of returning thanks and making requests; when they place them on altars; when they suspend before these relics gifts and curses; when they present them to be viewed, kissed, and adored by kneeling, and thus themselves adore them; when they light wax candles before them, burn incense to them; when they consecrate churches and altars by their presence, and consider them as rendered holy; when they institute festivals to them; when they celebrate masses to their honour, under this idea, that masses celebrated upon an altar on which relics are placed, become more holy and efficacious; when they undertake pilgrimages to them; when they carry them about as amulets and preservatives; when they put them upon sick people; when they sanctify their own napkins or handkerchiefs, their garlands, and other things of the same kind, by touching them with these relics, that they may serve for the same purposes; because they think that grace and a divine virtue exist in them, which they seek to obtain from them by invocations, and other services performed before them; they use them for driving away and expelling devils and bad spirits; and they do all these things which the heathen did to the relics of their idolatry. To all these particulars, must be added that most shameful illusion — the multiplication of relics, and the substitution of such as belong to other persons than to those whose names they bear. Hence, the origin of that witty saving, "The bodies of many persons are honoured on earth, whose souls are burning in everlasting torments." (Cal. de relig.)

XIV. The Fourth specimen, partly of the same idolatry, and partly of a superstition much worse than that of the heathens, the papists afford not only in the dedications and consecrations of churches, alters, vases, and ornaments which belong to them, such as the cross, the chalice and its covers, linen clothes, the vestments of priests, and of censers; also in the consecration of easter wax candles, holy water, salt, oil for extreme unction, bells, small waxen figures like dolls, each of which they call "Agnus Dei," and of cemeteries or burial grounds, and things of a similar kind, but likewise in the use of things thus consecrated, for the papists pray in these consecrations, that God would furnish or inspire the things now enumerated, with grace, virtue and power to drive away and expel bodily and spiritual evils, and to bestow the contrary blessings; they use them as actually possessed of such grace and virtue; and perform to them religious worship. We will here produce the following few instances of this matter: They have ascribed remission of Sins to visitations of churches thus consecrated. They use the following words, among others, in their formularies of consecrations, on the cross to be consecrated: "Deign, O Lord, to bless this wood of the cross, that it may be a saving remedy to mankind, that it may be the solidity of faith, the advancement of good works, the redemption of souls, and a safeguard against the fierce darts of enemies." In the formularies on holy water, these words occur: "I exorcise or adjure thee, O creature of water, that thou become exorcised water to put to flight all the power of the enemy, to root him out, and to displant friendly greetings with his apostate angels," &c. This is part of the formulary in the consecration of salt: "I exorcise or adjure thee, O creature of salt, that thou be made exorcised salt for the salvation of believers, that thou mayest be healthful soundness of soul and body to those who receive thee," &c. Also, the following words: "Deign, O Lord, to bless and sanctity this creature of salt, that it may be, to all who take it, health of mind and body; and that what thing soever shall be sprinkled with it, may be devoid of all filth or uncleanliness, and of every attack of spiritual wickedness." But they attribute to the consecrated small wax figures, which they call "Agni Dei," the virtue of breaking and removing every sin, as the blood of Christ does; and, according to this opinion, they use the same things, reposing their hope and confidence in them, as if they were actually endued with any such power.

XV. But that the papists commit the second species of idolatry in the worshipping of images, (Theses 4, 6, & 10,) is abundantly proved from their own confession, the forms of consecration, and their daily practice. (1.) Their own confession may be found in the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent, in which it is affirmed, (Session 25,)" The images of Christ, of the blessed virgin, and of other saints, are to be held and retained, especially in churches; and due honour and veneration are to be exhibited to them; so that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover our heads, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ, and venerate the saints whose likenesses those images bear; this is what was sanctioned by the second Nicene Council." Let the acts of that Council be inspected, and it will appear that the adoration and invocation which were established by it, are mere idolatry. To these, let Thomas, and the multitude of their divines, be added, who are of opinion that images must receive the same services of adoration, as those with which the prototypes which they represent are worshipped. (2.) The formularies of their consecrations make a similar declaration; for the image of the virgin Mary is consecrated in the following form: "O God, sanctify this image of the blessed virgin, that it may bring the help of saving aid to thy faithful people, if thunder and lightning prevail; that hurtful things may be the more speedily expelled; that inundations caused by rains, the commotions of civil wars, or the devastations committed by pagans, may be repressed and appeased at its presence. (1 Kings 8.) In the consecration of the image of John the Baptist, the following words occur: "Let this sacred image be the expeller of devils, the invoker of angels, the protector of the faithful, and let its intercession powerfully flourish in this place." (3.) In the daily practice of the papist, most of those acts, both of adoration and invocation, are performed to images, which we have already mentioned as having been exhibited to the saints themselves; and they usually perform those acts which they think due to the saints, to their images, or in their images, but seldom indeed do they by a pure mental glance look up to the saints themselves, being under the influence of this opinion — that the honours which they thus pay to images belong to the prototypes themselves, and therefore that the prayers which they address to them will by this means be the more readily and speedily heard and answered.

XVI. The papists do not indeed deny, that they present this worship, these services, and acts both of adoration and invocation, to the sacrament of the eucharist, to the virgin Mary, to angels and departed saints, to relics and things consecrated, and to these images: at least they are unable to deny this, except by an evident untruth. Yet they excuse themselves under the pretense of certain exceptions and distinctions, which they consider to be of such value and power, as to exempt from idolatry those acts which are performed by themselves with such an intention of mind, but which, when performed by others, are really idolatrous. These exceptions are, First. According to the three-fold excellence of divine, human and intermediate, there is a three-fold honour. And here the distinction is produced of Latreia "latria" or divine worship, douleia "dulia" or human worship, and uperdouleia "hyperdulia" or intermediate, or between both. To this may be added what they say, that most of the acts which relate to this worship are analogous. The Second exception is from the intention of those who offer those religious services. The Third is in the difference between intercession and bestowing, that is, between the office of mediator as discharged by the popish saints, and as discharged by Christ Jesus. The Fourth is in the distinction between an image and an idol.

XVII. The First subterfuge has three members. To the first of these we reply, (1.) The Scriptures do not acknowledge any excellence that is called "hyperdulia or intermediate," or that is different from divine excellence except what is according to the functions, graces and dignities through which some rational creatures, by divine command, preside over others and minister to them — men as long as they remain in this mortal life — and angels to the end of the world. Therefore, no homage paid to a creature is pure from idolatry, except that which is offered to superiors who live in this world, and which is approved by the Scriptures. (Psalm lxxxii, 1, 6; John x, 35.) (2.) That intermediate excellence, and the worship which is accommodated to it, are rejected by the Scriptures, since they condemn the "worship paid to angels" (Col. ii, 18,) and commend Hezekiah for having "broken in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it." (2 Kings xviii, 4) To the second monster of this subterfuge we reply, the distinction of worship into latria and dulia is vain in this case; for the apostle claims the worship of dulia which the papists call an inferior or human adoration for the true God alone, when he blames the gentiles for having "done service to those which by nature are no gods." (Gal. iv, 8.) And this word, in its general acceptation, signifies the service which ought to be performed, or which lawfully can be, to those only with whom we have to do according to godliness, and this according to the law which is either common to mutual charity, (Gal. v, 13,) or that which has a more particular reference to such persons as have constant transactions with each other. (Ephes. vi, 5, 6.) But with those persons to whom the present discussion relates, (placing the angels as an exception,) we have according to godliness no transactions, neither are we bound, by any law, to them for service. To the third member our answer is, (1.) To offer sacrifice, to burn incense, to erect churches and altars, to make vows, to institute festivals, fasts and pilgrimages, to angels or saints, and to swear by their names, and not analogical or relative services, but univocal or having one purpose, and such as are due only to the true God. (2.) Though prostration itself is law fitly given to men on account of their analogical similitude to God, yet, when it is an act of religion, it is considered as so peculiarly due to God, that the whole of divine worship is designated by it alone. (1 Kings xix, 18; Matt. ix, 18.) Christ likewise denies prostration to the devil, (Matt. iv, 8,) and the angel in the Apocalypse refuses it when offered to himself. (Rev. xix, 10.)

XVIII The distinct intention of the worshipers, is the Second subterfuge that they use to remove from themselves the idolatries of every kind of which they have been accused. In the first of these intentions they say, concerning the adoration of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, that their intention is to honour, not the bread, but the true body of Christ. In the second, that the adoration, even divine adoration itself, which they perform to a creature, is not offered to it as to God; that is, they perform the acts of worship with the design of procuring for the creature such esteem and veneration as in reality belongs only to the divine Majesty. In the third, that by giving honour to a creature, they do not stop there, but that God may be glorified in and through the creature. (Greg. de Val. lib. 2, c. 1 & 3.) In the fourth, that they do not honour the image itself, but its prototype. To all these distinctions we reply, (1.) The deed is in every case contrary to the intention; and they in reality do the very thing which, in their intention, they profess themselves desirous to avoid. (2.) The judgment of God is adverse to their intention; for he does not interpret the deed from the intention, but forms his judgment of the intention from the deed. God himself has exposed an intention that is in accordance with such a deed, although the man who does it puts in his protestation about his contrary intention. This intention is evident from the following passages: "They have made them a molten calf and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, these be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." (Exod. xxxii, 8.) "He falleth down unto it and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my god." (Isa. xliv, 17.) "They sacrificed unto devils, not to God," &c. (Deut. xxxii, 17.) (3.) We add, if these distinctions possess any validity, neither Jews nor heathens could at any time have been accused of having committed idolatry; for, by the same distinctions as these, they would be able to justify all their acts of worship, whether offered to a true or to a false deity, to the supreme God, to inferior divinities, or to an image. For on these principles their intention never feared the works of their own fingers, but those persons after whose image such works were formed, and to whose names they were consecrated. Their intention never honoured angels, demons, or the minor gods, except that such services should redound to the honour of the supreme Deity; (Lactan. Inst. 1. ii c. 2;) it never wished to procure such esteem and veneration for them as belongs solely to the majesty of God supreme; and it never worshipped a false deity.

XIX. The Third exception has a special tendency to justify the invocation of the virgin Mary and the saints; (Thesis 16;) for the papists say that they invoke them, not as the prime authors and donors of blessings; nor as Christ, whom God the Father hath constituted the high priest, and to whom he has given all power in heaven and on earth; but that they invoke them, in truth, as friends, intercessors and donors, yet in subordination to Christ. To this we reply, First, from the premises which they grant, they may themselves be convicted of idolo-dulia, or inferior worship offered to idols; for they confess that the invocation which they practice to the virgin Mary and to saints is the adoration of dulia. But they fabricate idols of the virgin Mary and of saints before they invoke them by heresy, both by falsely attributing to them the faculty of understanding their prayers, of interceding for sinners, not only feelingly, but also meritoriously, and of granting the things requested, and by presenting to them, as possessed of these qualifications, the worship of invocation; for this is the mode by which an idol is fabricated of a thing that has had a real existence. To this argument strength is added from the circumstance that, although these saints might know the things for which the papists pray, might intercede for them with a pious feeling, and, as spirits," might bestow what they have requested; yet as they could not bestow them, "with power" they ought not to be invoked. Secondly. By the words, "insubordination to Christ," they in reality destroy such a subordination and introduce a collaterally. If this be true, then on that very account they are likewise idolaters; because the worship, which God the Father wishes to be given to his Son, is that of latria, or divine adoration. For it is the will of the Father, "that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." (John v, 23.) But subordination is removed, and collaterally is introduced, (1.) Universally, when all these saints are said, by their own merits, to intercede for and to obtain blessings, and to dispense the blessings thus obtained, which are two tokens of the eversion of subordination and of the introduction of collaterally. (2.) Specially, this collaterally exists from their own showing between Christ and the virgin Mary; as is evident, (1.) the names under which they invoke her, when they denominate her "the queen of heaven," "the mistress of the world," "our salvation, harbor, defense, refuge and solace," who is able to command our Redeemer in virtue of her authority as his mother. These expressions place Christ in subordination to her. (2.) But this is likewise evident, from the cause on account of which they say she ought to be invoked. As a Female Advocate, because, since Christ is not only a man and an advocate, but likewise God and a Judge, "who will suffer nothing to pass unpunished; the virgin Mary, as having in her nothing that is harsh and unpleasant, but being all mildness and suavity," (Thesis 12,) ought to act as intercessor between him and sinners. And as a Female Dispenser of Blessings; because "God the Father has given half of his kingdom to her, (that is, to administer his mercy while he reserves the exercise of justice to himself,") and has conferred upon her a plenitude of all grace, that out of her fullness all men may receive. This is nothing less than to hurl Christ from his throne, and to exalt the virgin Mary in his place.

XX. The Fourth subterfuge is the distinction between an image and an idol. The papists say, an image is the likeness of something real; an idol, that of something false. When Bellarmine explains this definition, he commits a fallacy; for, in interpreting "something false," he says, since it is a being, it is not that which it is feigned to be, that is, God. But that the difference which he here makes is a false one, many passages of Scripture prove. The image which Rachael purloined from her father, is called "anidol"; but it was the image of a man. (Gen. xxxi, 34.) Stephen calls the molten calf "anidol," and it was made to represent the true God. (Acts. vii, 41.) The calves of Jeroboam were representations or images of Jehovah, yet they are called "idols" by the Greek and Latin translators. (1 Kings xii, 28.) Micah’s image is also called "an idol" and yet it was "set up" to Jehovah. (Judges xvii, 4; xviii, 31.) Among the "dumb idols" unto which, the apostle says, the Corinthians "were carried away," were statues of men, and probably images of "four-footed beasts, of creeping things, and of birds." (Rom. i, 23.) Yet Bellarmine would with difficulty prove that these are things, which have no existence. Wherefore if an idol be that which is nothing, that is, a sound without reality and meaning, this very distinction, which is purely an invention of the human brain, is itself the vainest idol, nay one of the veriest of idols. Such likewise are those distinctions and intentions which have been invented, for the establishment of idols and of the impious and unlawful adoration of idols, by the church of the malignants, by the mother of fornications, who resembles the "adulterous woman" mentioned in Prov. xxx, 20:  "She eateth and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no harm," or "I have not wrought iniquity."


It can be proved by strong arguments from the Scriptures, that the Roman pontiff is himself an idol; and that they who esteem him as the personage that he and his followers boastingly depict him to be, and who present to him the honour which he demands, by those very acts shew themselves to be idolaters.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Ecclesiastical Independence?

Independence is an odd characteristic of some, notably members of one body, unified in thought. It goes against the grain in some respects. We are conformists for the most part yet we all think of ourselves as independent in thought and deed. I chose the title of this blog intentionally with the idea of creating my own noun. Not liking how “Introspection” sounded, I chose to be independent of proper English grammar and use “Introspective”, an adjective, in its place. I've done the same with ”distinctive” and other adjectives. It suits my purpose and my understanding of the evolving nature of language as I willfully choose to use it, willful as opposed to ignorance and poor grammar. All of this brings me to this thought. Do we as individual members of the Body of Christ conform to the dictates of ecclesiastical pronouncement due to agreement in principle or is our conformity the result of a desire to properly belong to the group?

I am a Protestant, distinctly not Roman Catholic or Oriental Orthodox. We Protestants love our doctrines of salvation by grace through faith and we happily embrace the Hypostatic Union even though most of our members might have to rush to a theological resource to discover just what that means and even still be left with just a minimal understanding of what the Council of Chalcedon was thinking in 451 AD. It is ancient history yet eternal in its significance. We all agree that the LORD’s Supper and Baptism are outward symbols and sacraments of the church. Well, most of us would agree. However, every time someone tries to define the “essentials” of the Christian faith, I find just a taste of disagreement with whatever list somebody else produces. Whether due to a cantankerous nature or inquisitive independence, I really cannot say but there is almost always one item on the list that I have to object to. First, my “independence” requires that “essential” be defined properly. Is this referring to salvation, to growth and maturity, edification? How we define essential determines what I consider essential, obviously. Is the doctrine of the Trinity essential for salvation i.e. can oneness adherents be saved? This is where independence generates the friction required to kindle the blaze of discontent. Many Protestants would claim in no uncertain terms that the Trinity is absolutely a necessary doctrine for anybody considered saved by grace through faith. I’m not so sure. Further, many Protestants would claim that the two natures of Christ as explained by the Hypostatic Union is necessary for salvation. I do not agree with that at all as it relates to salvation. The list becomes more controversial the more it grows. At some point each of us has to sit down and hash this out for ourselves. It might jeopardize one’s standing in their local church or it could prevent acceptance to a particular seminary. Can I be a Protestant in the historical tradition of the Reformation and maintain independence from ecclesiastical decrees? For me it is certain I will.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Arminius on the Law of God


Respondent: Dionysius Spranckhuysen

I. Law in general is defined, either from its End, "an ordinance of right reason for the common and particular good of all and of each of those who are subordinate to it, enacted by Him who has the care of the whole community, and, in it, that of each individual." Or from its Form and its Efficacy, "an ordinance commanding what must be done, and what omitted; it is enacted by Him, who possesses the right of requiring obedience; and it binds to obedience a creature who abounds in the use of reason and the exercise of liberty, by the sacred promise of a reward and by the denunciation of a punishment." It is likewise distinguished into Human and Divine. A Divine law has God for its author, a Human law has man for its author; not that any law enacted by man is choice and good, which may not be referred to God, the author of every good; but because men deduce from the Divine law such precepts as are accommodated to the state of which they have the charge and oversight, according to its particular condition and circumstances. At present we will treat upon the Divine law.

II. The Divine law may be considered, either as it is impressed on the minds of men by the engrafted word; (Rom. ii, 14, 15;) as it is communicated by words audibly pronounced, (Gal. ii, 17,) or as it is comprised in writing. (Exod. xxxiv, 1.) These modes of legislation do not differ in their entire objects: but they may admit of discrimination in this way, the first seems to serve as a kind of foundation to the rest; but the two others extend themselves further, even to those things which are commanded and forbidden. We will now treat upon the law of God which is comprised in writing; and which is also called "the law of Moses"; because God used him as a mediator to deliver it to the children of Israel. (Mal. iv, 4; Gal. iii, 19.) But it is three-fold according to the variety of the object, that is, of the works to be performed. The first is called the Ethical, or Moral Law: (Exod. 20.) The second, the Sacred or Ceremonial. The third the Political, Judicial or Forensic Law.

III. The Moral Law is distributed through the whole of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and is summarily contained in the Decalogue. It is an ordinance that commands those things which God accounts grateful of themselves, and which it is his will to be performed by all men at all times and in all places; and that forbids the contrary things. (1 Sam. xv, 22; Amos v, 21-24; Micah vi, 6-8.) It is therefore the perpetual and immutable rule of living, the express image of the internal Divine conception; according to which, God, the great lawgiver, judges it right and equitable that a rational creature should always and in every place order and direct the whole of his life. It is briefly contained in the love God and of our neighbour; (Matt. xxii, 36-39;) whether partly consisting of those services which relate to the love, honour, fear, and worship of God; (Mal. i, 6;) or partly consisting of those duties which we owe to our neighbours, superiors, inferiors, and equals: (Rom. 12,13, & 14;) in the wide circle of which are also comprehended those things which every man is bound to perform to himself. (Tit. ii, 11, 12.)

IV. The uses of the moral law are various, according to the different conditions of man. (1.) The primary use, and that which was of itself intended by God according to his love for righteousness and for his creatures, was, that man by it might be quickened or made alive, that is, that he might perform it, and by its performance might be justified, and might "of debt" receive the reward which was promised through it. (Rom. ii, 13; x, 5; iv, 4.) And this use was accommodated to the primitive state of man, when sin had not yet entered into the world. (2.) The first use in order of the moral law, under a state of sin, is AGAINST man as a sinner, not only that it may accuse him of transgression and guilt, and may subject him to the wrath of God and condemnation; (Rom. iii, 19, 20;) but that it may likewise convince him of his utter inability to resist sin and to subject himself to the law. (Rom. 7.) Since God has been pleased mercifully and graciously to treat with sinful man, the next use of the law TOWARDS the sinner is, that it may compel him who is thus convicted and subjected to condemnation, to desire and seek the grace of God, and that it may force him to flee to Christ either as the promised or as the imparted deliverer. (Gal. ii, 16, 17.) Besides, in this state of sin, the moral law is serviceable, not only to God, that, by the dread of punishment and the promise of temporal rewards, he may restrain men under its guidance at least from the outward work of sin and from flagrant crimes; (1 Tim. i, 9, 10;) but it is also serviceable to Sin, when dwelling and reigning in a carnal man who is under the law, that it may inflame the desire of sin, may increase sin, and may "work within him all manner of concupiscence." (Rom. vi, 12-14; vii, 5, 8, 11, 13.) In the former case, God employs the law through his goodness and his love for civil and social intercourse among mankind. In the latter case, it is employed through the malice of sin which reigns and has the dominion.

V. (3.) The third use of the moral law is towards a man, as now born again by the Spirit of God and of Christ, and is agreeable to the state of grace, that it may be a perpetual rule for directing his life in a godly and spiritual manner: (Tit. iii, 8; James ii, 8.) Not that man may be justified; because for this purpose it is rendered "weak through the flesh" and useless, even if man had committed only a single sin: (Rom. viii, 3.) But that he may render thanks to God for his gracious redemption and sanctification, (Psalm cxvi, 12, 13,) that he may preserve a good conscience, (1 Tim. i, 19,) that he may make his calling and election sure, (2 Pet. i, 10,) that he may by his example win over other persons to Christ, (1 Pet. iii, 1,) that he may confound the devil, (Job 1 & 2,) that he may condemn the ungodly world, (Heb. xi, 7,) and that through the path of good works he may march towards the heavenly inheritance and glory, (Rom. ii, 7,) and that he may not only himself glorify God, (1 Cor. vi, 20,) but may also furnish occasion and matter to others for glorifying his Father who is in Heaven. (Matt. v, 16.)

VI. From these uses it is easy to collect how far the moral law obtains among believers and those who are placed under the grace of Christ, and how far it is abrogated. (1.) It is abrogated with regard to its power and use in justifying: "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by that law." (Gal. iii, 21.) The reason why "it cannot give life," is, "because it is weak through the flesh": (Rom. viii, 3) God, therefore, willing to deal graciously with men, gave the promise and Christ himself, that the inheritance through the promise and by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But the law which came after the promise, could neither "make the latter of none effect," (for it was sanctioned by authority,) nor could it be joined or super- added to the promise, that out of this union righteousness and life might be given. (Gal. iii, 16-18, 22.) (2.) It is abrogated with regard to the curse and condemnation: For "Christ, being made a curse for us, hath redeemed us from the curse of the law"; (Gal. iii, 10-13;) and thus the law is taken away from sin, lest its "strength" should be to condemn. (1 Cor. xv, 55, 56.) (3.) The law is abrogated and taken away from sin, so far as "sin, having taken occasion by the law, works all manner of concupiscence" in the carnal man, over whom sin exercises dominion. (Rom. vii, 4-8.) (4.) It is abrogated, with regard to the guidance by which it urged man to do good and to refrain from evil, through a fear of punishment and a hope of temporal reward. (1 Tim. i, 9, 10; Gal. iv, 18.) For believers and regenerate persons "are become dead to the law by the body of Christ," that they may be the property of another, even of Christ; by whose Spirit they are led and excited in newness of life, according to love and the royal law of liberty. (1 John v, 3, 4; James ii, 8.) Whence it appears, that the law is not abrogated with respect to the obedience which must be rendered to God; for though obedience be required under the grace of Christ and of the Gospel, it is required according to clemency, and not according to strict legal rigor. (1 John iii, 1, 2.)

VII. The Ceremonial Law is that which contains the precepts concerning the outward worship of God; which was delivered to the Jewish church, and was accommodated to the times in which the church of God was "as a child" under "the promise" and the Old Testament. (Gal. iv, 1-3.) It was instituted not only to typify, to prefigure and to bear witness by sealing; (Heb. viii, 5; x, 1;) but likewise for the discipline, or good order which was to be observed in ecclesiastical meetings and acts. (Col. ii, 14; Psalm xxvii, 4.) Subservient to the former purpose were circumcision, the Pascal Lamb, sacrifices, sabbaths, sprinklings, washings, purifications, consecrations and dedications of living creatures. (Col. ii, 11; 1 Cor. v, 7.) To the latter purpose, that of church discipline, were the distinct functions of the Priests, the Levites, the Singers, and the porters, or door-keepers, the courses or changes in their several duties, and the circumstances of the places and times in which these sacred acts were to be severally performed. (1 Chron. 24, 25, & 26.)

VIII. The use of this ceremonial law was, (1.) That it might retain that ancient people under the hope and expectation of the good things which had been promised. (Heb. x, 1- 3.) This use it fulfilled by various types, figures and shadows of persons, things, actions, and events; (7, 9, & 10;) by which not only were sins testified as in "a hand-writing which was against them," (Col. ii, 14,) that the necessity of the promise which had been given might be understood; but likewise the expiation and promised good things were shewn at a distance, that they might believe the promise would assuredly be fulfilled. (Heb. ix, 8-10; Col. ii, 17; Heb. x, 1.) And in this respect, since the body and express form of those types and shadows relate to Christ, the ceremonial law is deservedly called "a school-master to bring the Jews unto Christ." (Gal. iii, 24.) (2.) That it might distinguish from other nations the Children of Israel, as a people sanctified to God on a peculiar account, and that it might separate them as "a middle wall of partition"; (Ephes. ii, 14, 15;) yet so as that even strangers might be admitted to a participation in it by circumcision. (Exod. xii, 44; Acts ii, 10.) (3.) That while occupied in this course of operas religious services, they might not invent and fabricate other modes of worship, nor assume such as were in use among other nations; and thus they were preserved pure from idolatry and superstition, to which they had the greatest propensity, and for which occasions were offered on every side by those nations who were contiguous, as well as by those who dwelt amongst them. (Deut. 12; xxxi, 16, 27-29.)

IX. The ceremonial law was abrogated by the cross, the death and the resurrection of Christ, by his ascension into heaven and the mission of the Holy Ghost, by the sun’s dispersion of the shadows, and by the entrance of "the body which is of Christ" into their place, (Col. ii, 11, 12, 14, 17,) which is the full completion of all the types. (Heb. viii, 1-6.) But the gradations to be observed in its abrogation must come under our consideration: In the first moment it was abrogated with regard to the necessity and utility of its observance, every obligatory right being at once and together taken from it: in that instant it ceased to live, and became dead. (Gal. iv, 9, 10; 1 Cor. vii, 19; ix, 19, 20; 2 Cor. iii, 13- 16.) Afterwards it was actually to be abolished. This was ejected partly, by the teaching of the Apostles among believers, who by degrees understood "Christ to be the end of the law," and of that which was then abolished; they abstained therefore voluntarily from the use of that law. Its abolition was also ejected in part, by the power of God, in the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, in which was the seat of religion, and the place appointed for performing those religious observances, against the contumacy of the unbelieving Jews. From this period the legal ceremonies began to be mortiferous, though in the intermediate space which had elapsed between the death of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem, these rites, even in the judgment of the apostles themselves, might be tolerated, but only among the Jews, and with a proviso, that they should not be imposed on the Gentiles: (Acts xvi, 3; xv, 28; xxi, 21-26; Gal. ii, 3, 11, 12;) which toleration must itself be considered as being tantamount to a new institution.

X. The Judicial Law is that which God prescribed by Moses to the Children of Israel, of whom He was in a peculiar manner the king. (Exod. 21, 22, 23, &c.) It contained precepts about the form of the political government to be exercised in civil society, for procuring the benefit both of natural and spiritual life, by the preservation and exaction of the outward worship and of the external discipline commanded in moral and ceremonial law, such as concerned magistrates, contracts, division of property, judgments, punishments, &c. (Deut. xvii, 15.) These laws may appropriately be referred to two kinds: (1.) Some of them, with regard to their substance are of general obligation, though with regard to some circumstances they are peculiar to the Jewish commonwealth. (2.) Others belong simply to a particular right or authority. (Deut. xv, 1, 2; vi, 19.)

XI. The uses of this judicial law also were three: (1.) That the whole community of the Children of Israel might be regulated by a certain rule of public equity and justice; that it might be "as a city that is compact together," (Psalm cxxii, 3,) or as a body "which is knit together" according to all and each of its parts," "by the joints and sinews" of the precepts prescribed in this law. (2.) That the Israelites might, by this law, be distinguished from other nations who had their own laws. Thus was it the will of God, that this his people should have nothing in common with other nations, wherever this was possible according to the nature of things and of man himself. These two uses related to the existing condition of the Jewish commonwealth. (3.) It had reference to future things, and was typical of them For all that state, and the whole kingdom and its administration, the chiefs of administration, the judges and kings, prefigured Christ and his kingdom, and its spiritual administration. Psalm 2; Ezek. xxxiv, 23, 24.) In this respect also the judicial law may be called "a schoolmaster to bring the Jews to Christ."

XII. This law, so far as it had regard to Christ, was universally abrogated. No kingdom, no nation, no administration, serves now typically to figure Christ and his kingdom or administration. For his kingdom, which is the kingdom of heaven and not of this world, has already come, and he has come into his kingdom. (Matt. iii, 2; xvi, 28; John xviii, 36; Matt. xi, 11.) But with respect to its simple observance, this Judicial Law is neither forbidden nor prescribed to any people, nor is it of absolute necessity to be either observed or omitted. Those matters are accepted which are of universal obligation, and founded in natural equity. For it is necessary, that they be strictly observed, in every place and by all persons. And those things in the judicial law which relate to Christ as it respects the very substance and principal end, cannot be lawfully used by any nation.


The doctrine of the Papists respecting Councils and of Works of Supererogation, derogates from the perfection of the Divine commands.