Monthly Archives: April 2010

A hypercalvinist describes Reformed teaching on baptism

Interestingly, many who left the Reformed Church under Dr. K. Schilder were of the Secession of 1834 and, therefore, leaned toward the common grace of the offer, the same idea appeared among the people of the Liberated Church. It took, however, a slightly different form. It was connected with the sacrament of baptism instead of the preaching. The Liberated, therefore, instead of speaking of a general offer in the preaching, spoke of a general promise to all baptized children in the sacrament of baptism. Instead of the common grace that comes through the preaching, the Liberated speak of a common grace that comes through baptism. Instead of emphasizing the grace of the offer that enables a man to choose for or against the gospel, the Liberated speak of a grace that comes through baptism enabling all baptized children to accept or reject the promise. And so, both the gracious offer of the gospel and the gracious promise of the covenant are conditional, so that both depend upon the fulfillment of the condition of faith in order to have salvation realized fully.

via “Common Grace Considered”: Dr. Abraham Kuyper’s common grace (12).

Of course, it is simply wrong to claim that this baptismal grace provides the ability to accept or reject the promise.  The moral ability to truly trust in Christ is a gift of special grace given unconditionally to those chosen to inherit everlasting life.

See also:

A basic hypercalvinist fallacy

Heinrich Bullinger on unconditional grace and conditional inheritance

Law and Gospel is not conditional and unconditional

Martin Bucer on trusting the way the Bible speaks of the Sacraments

Christ truly washes from their sins and regenerates those upon whom the Church bestows baptism, which is in fact the laver of regeneration…

Since we ought to speak of the Word and Sacraments as the Lord has commended them to his Church, and wishes them to be used, I some time since acknowledged, and reassert, that it is rightly said of the Word and Sacraments, when we speak simply of them, that they are the administration of salvation, channels, vehicles, and instruments of the Spirit and grace…

We shall then speak most fully, clearly, and certainly concerning these points of faith, when we speak according to the rule and form of the Scriptures. Now therein the Lord clearly says, that his Gospel is his power for salvation to every one that believes, that baptism is the laver of regeneration, that the eucharist is the communication of his body and blood, that his ministers bind and loose, retains sins and remit them; why therefore should not we also speak thus?

…by baptism we are said to be loosed and washed from our sins, because by baptism, through the power of Christ and the ministry of the Church, we receive pardon and cleansing…”

Source: The Doctrine of the Church of England as to the Effects of Baptism in the Case of Infants by William Goode

(see my discussion here)

John 16.21

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

via Passage: john 16.21 (ESV Bible Online).

Pastor Uri Brito writes:

The illustration used by Jesus in John 16:21 carries a far greater weight than a simple analogy to the disciple’s loss, which will take place in a “little while.” The birthing of this “anthropos/man” is the birthing of the New World. The resurrection is the new birth.

This woman is birthing a new humanity in Jesus Christ from the darkness of the womb to the light of the world; from the darkness of the tomb to the light of the world. The great reversal occurs. Those who wept will now sing and those who mourned will now dance. The resurrection brings joy to each disciple, but it also will bring joy to the world.

Just how “thick” is this image/analogy/concept in Scripture.  One finds it clearly in the Old Testament.  Isaiah 26:

17 Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
18 we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Jesus spelled out how resurrection produces sonship in Luke 20:

34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

And then it is all over the New Testament.

So when Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” we now know the answer.  It is given in John 16 and all over the rest of the Bible.  A man can be born when he is old by dying and allowing the grave to give him second birth.  That’s what Jesus did for us.  He was born again from the grave and he transfigured the curse of death itself into a means to the new creation.

C. S. Lewis on Anxiety

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ. For the beginning of the Passion–the first move, so to speak–is in Gethsemane. In Gethsemane a very strange and significant thing seems to have happened.

Read the rest at The Traveller: W: LP: GRP: CSL: Letters to Malcolm, comments.

John Murray on justification in union with Christ

It is in Christ that we are justified (Acts 13.39; Romans 8.1; First Corinthians 6.11; Galatians 2.17). At the outset we are here advised that it is by union with Christ and by some specific relation to him involved in that union that we are justified

(p. 126, 127)

See also: Ridderbos on the justification of the ungodly in union with Christ.

Peter Leithart, John Calvin, and Westminster on justification as a legal benefit of union with Christ

Real Union or Legal Fiction?

Charles Hodge on the basis of vindication at the last judgment

Was Charles Hodge out of accord with the Westminster Standards as interpreted by the FV Study Committee?

Hodge writes of the final judgment: “The ground or matter of judgment is said to be the ‘deeds done in the body,’ men are to be judged ‘according to their works;’ ‘the secrets of the heart’ are to be brought to light. God’s judgment will not be founded on professions, or the relations of men, or on the appearance or reputation which they sustain among their fellows; but on their real character and on their acts, however secret and covered from the sight of men those acts have been. God will not be mocked and cannot be deceived; the character of every man will be clearly revealed.”

In addition to “general representations of Scripture that the character and conduct of men is the ground on which the final sentence is to be pronounced,” Hodge notes that for those who hear the gospel “their future destiny depends on the attitude which they assume to Christ.” He points to Matthew 25, arguing that “the inquest concerns the conduct of men toward Christ . . . The special ground of condemnation, therefore, under the gospel is unbelief; the refusal to receive Christ in the character in which He is presented for our acceptance.”

While I agree with Hodge’s last point, I would add that in Matthew 25 the attitude to Christ is expressed in how one treats “the least of these my brothers.” Even here, the judgment is according to what people have done, and particularly concerns whether they have acted with charity toward Jesus’ brothers.

Reading Matthew 25, I’d like not to believe in judgment according to works. But I can’t avoid it.

via | Hodge on Judgment according to works.

Kierkegaard on Christian Scholarship

Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close . . . We would be sunk if it were not for Christian scholarship! Praise be to everyone who works to consolidate the reputation of Christian scholarship, which helps to restrain the New Testament, this confounded book which would, one, two, three, run us all down if it got loose.

via | Christian Scholarship.

Wright’s lecture on Paul’s Gospel


Thank you for your warm welcome and generous hospitality. It is an enormous pleasure for Maggie and myself to be here in Monroe for the first time. I am particularly grateful to those who have worked very hard to set this conference up and make it all happen.

I want in this opening session to set some parameters for our subsequent discussion, and in particular to put some cards firmly and clearly on the table about my starting points, my fixed points in reading Paul, and my aims in expounding his theology. I am aware – and it is a matter of some irony in my mind – that my own views on Paul have been the subject of far more interest and debate in America, and within churches other than my own, than they have in England, or within worldwide Anglicanism. I do sometimes catch myself wondering, ‘Why should I worry if one branch of American Presbyterianism wants to fight another branch about whether I’m a good thing or a bad thing?’; rather as though two baseball fans were to argue about the respective merits of a cricket player. One answer is, I guess, that since I think my own reading of Paul represents a historically grounded and theologically accurate and sensitive understanding I naturally hope that other Christians of whatever tradition will find what I say fruitful, and I grieve that anyone should get into trouble in their own denomination, whatever that may be, for embracing a viewpoint which ought at the very least to be within anybody’s limits of orthodoxy. I suppose, though, that part at least of the reason I am concerned about all this is that within my own church I have engaged in a lifelong struggle to get Paul back on to the agenda, and to allow his vision of God in Christ, of the cross and resurrection, and justification by faith, to become once more part of the bloodstream of a church that was founded on them but has done its best to forget the fact. My church grew directly out of the sixteenth-century Reformation, and even where I have disagreed with some of the Reformers’ particular proposals I believe I have remained true to their foundational principles. And, indeed, I want now to begin the first section of this lecture with a quote from the first and perhaps the greatest of the English reformers, the one from whom I most securely learnt the formal principle which underlies all my reading not only of Paul but of the whole of scripture.

Read the rest at: Paul in Different Perspectives by N.T. Wright.

I had completely forgotten that this excellent lecture was available online.  I have the DVD somewhere an am thinking of viewing it with my boys now.  Great stuff.

Also, check out John Armstrong’s blog today.

Jesus’ Gospel is Paul’s 3

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.