Monthly Archives: November 2011

Calvin still relevant in schooling the schoolmen on justification

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

A biblio-ecclesiastical term; which denotes the transforming of the sinner from the state of unrighteousness to the state of holiness and sonship of God. Considered as an act (actus justificationis), justification is the work of God alone, presupposing, however, on the part of the adult the process of justification and the cooperation of his free will with God’s preventing and helping grace (gratia praeveniens et cooperans). Considered as a state or habit (habitus justificationis), it denotes the continued possession of a quality inherent in the soul, which theologians aptly term sanctifying grace.

Ugh. John Calvin is so much better. Here’s an excerpt from his Institutes conveniently available at ReformationInk:

1. I trust I have now sufficiently shown how man’s only resource for escaping from the curse of the law, and recovering salvation, lies in faith; and also what the nature of faith is, what the benefits which it confers, and the fruits which it produces. The whole may be thus summed up: Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of a judge, an indulgent Father; and, secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life. This second benefit, viz., regeneration, appears to have been already sufficiently discussed. On the other hand, the subject of justification was discussed more cursorily, because it seemed of more consequence first to explain that the faith by which alone, through the mercy of God, we obtain free justification, is not destitute of good works; and also to show the true nature of these good works on which this question partly turns. The doctrine of Justification is now to be fully discussed, and discussed under the conviction, that as it is the principal ground on which religion must be supported, so it requires greater care and attention. For unless you understand first of all what your position is before God, and what the judgment which he passes upon you, you have no foundation on which your salvation can be laid, or on which piety towards God can be reared. The necessity of thoroughly understanding this subject will become more apparent as we proceed with it.

2. Lest we should stumble at the very threshold, (this we should do were we to begin the discussion without knowing what the subject is,) let us first explain the meaning of the expressions, To be justified in the sight of God, to be Justified by faith or by works. A man is said to be justified in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is deemed righteous, and is accepted on account of his righteousness; for as iniquity is abominable to God, so neither can the sinner find grace in his sight, so far as he is and so long as he is regarded as a sinner. Hence, wherever sin is, there also are the wrath and vengeance of God. He, on the other hand, is justified who is regarded not as a sinner, but as righteous, and as such stands acquitted at the judgment-seat of God, where all sinners are condemned. As an innocent man, when charged before an impartial judge, who decides according to his innocence, is said to be justified by the judge, as a man is said to be justified by God when, removed from the catalogue of sinners, he has God as the witness and assertor of his righteousness. In the same manner, a man will be said to be justified by works, if in his life there can be found a purity and holiness which merits an attestation of righteousness at the throne of God, or if by the perfection of his works he can answer and satisfy the divine justice. On the contrary, a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from the righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous. Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as if we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, (see sec. 21 and 23.)

3. In confirmation of this there are many clear passages of Scripture. First, it cannot be denied that this is the proper and most usual signification of the term. But as it were too tedious to collect all the passages, and compare them with each other, let it suffice to have called the reader’s attention to the fact: he will easily convince himself of its truth. I will only mention a few passages in which the justification of which we speak is expressly handled. First, when Luke relates that all the people that heard Christ “justified God,” (Luke 7: 29,) and when Christ declares, that “Wisdom is justified of all her children,” (Luke 7: 35,) Luke means not that they conferred righteousness which always dwells in perfection with God, although the whole world should attempt to wrest it from him, nor does Christ mean that the doctrine of salvation is made just: this it is in its own nature; but both modes of expression are equivalent to attributing due praise to God and his doctrine. On the other hand, when Christ upbraids the Pharisees for justifying themselves, (Luke 16: 15,) he means not that they acquired righteousness by acting properly, but that they ambitiously courted a reputation for righteousness of which they were destitute. Those acquainted with Hebrew understand the meaning better: for in that language the name of wicked is given not only to those who are conscious of wickedness, but to those who receive sentence of condemnation. Thus, when Bathsheba says, “I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders,” she does not acknowledge a crime, but complains that she and her son will be exposed to the disgrace of being numbered among reprobates and criminals, (1 Kings 1: 21.) It is, indeed, plain from the context, that the term even in Latin must be thus understood, viz., relatively, and does not denote any quality. In regard to the use of the term with reference to the present subject, when Paul speaks of the Scripture, “foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith,” (Gal. 3: 8,) what other meaning can you give it than that God imputes righteousness by faith? Again, when he says, “that he (God) might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus,” (Rom. 3: 26,) what can the meaning be, if not that God, in consideration of their faith, frees them from the condemnation which their wickedness deserves? This appears still more plainly at the conclusion, when he exclaims, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us, (Rom. 8: 33, 34.) For it is just as if he had said, Who shall accuse those whom God has acquitted? Who shall condemn those for whom Christ pleads? To justify therefore, is nothing else than to acquit from the charge of guilt, as if innocence were proved. Hence, when God justifies us through the intercession of Christ, he does not acquit us on a proof of our own innocence, but by an imputation of righteousness, so that though not righteous in ourselves, we are deemed righteous in Christ. Thus it is said, in Paul’s discourse in the Acts, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 13: 38, 39.) You see that after remission of sins justification is set down by way of explanation; you see plainly that it is used for acquittal; you see how it cannot be obtained by the works of the law; you see that it is entirely through the interposition of Christ; you see that it is obtained by faith; you see, in fine, that satisfaction intervenes, since it is said that we are justified from our sins by Christ. Thus when the publican is said to have gone down to his house “justified,” (Luke 18: 14,) it cannot be held that he obtained this justification by any merit of works. All that is said is, that after obtaining the pardon of sins he was regarded in the sight of God as righteous. He was justified, therefore, not by any approval of works, but by gratuitous acquittal on the part of God. Hence Ambrose elegantly terms confession of sins “legal justification,” (Ambrose on Psalm 118 Serm. 10).

4. Without saying more about the term, we shall have no doubt as to the thing meant if we attend to the description which is given of it. For Paul certainly designates justification by the term acceptance, when he says to the Ephesians, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved,” (Eph. 1: 5, 6.) His meaning is the very same as where he elsewhere says, “being justified freely by his grace,” (Rom. 3: 24.) In the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, he first terms it the imputation of righteousness, and hesitates not to place it in forgiveness of sins: “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,” &c., (Rom. 4: 6-8.) There, indeed, he is not speaking of a part of justification, but of the whole. He declares, moreover, that a definition of it was given by David, when he pronounced him blessed who has obtained the free pardon of his sins. Whence it appears that this righteousness of which he speaks is simply opposed to judicial guilt. But the most satisfactory passage on this subject is that in which he declares the sum of the Gospel message to be reconciliation to God, who is pleased, through Christ, to receive us into favor by not imputing our sins, (2 Cor. 5: 18-21.) Let my readers carefully weigh the whole context. For Paul shortly after adding, by way of explanation, in order to designate the mode of reconciliation, that Christ who knew no sin was made sin for us, undoubtedly understands by reconciliation nothing else than justification. Nor, indeed, could it be said, as he elsewhere does, that we are made righteous “by the obedience” of Christ, (Rom. 5: 19,) were it not that we are deemed righteous in the sight of God in him and not in ourselves…

13. But since a great part of mankind imagine a righteousness compounded of faith and works let us here show that there is so wide a difference between justification by faith and by works, that the establishment of the one necessarily overthrows the other. The Apostle says, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (Phil. 3: 8, 9.) You here see a comparison of contraries, and an intimation that every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own. Hence he elsewhere declares the cause of the rejection of the Jews to have been, that “they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God,” (Rom. 10: 3.) If we destroy the righteousness of God by establishing our own righteousness, then, in order to obtain his righteousness, our own must be entirely abandoned. This also he shows, when he declares that boasting is not excluded by the Law, but by faith, (Rom. 3: 27.) Hence it follows, that so long as the minutes portion of our own righteousness remains, we have still some ground for boasting. Now if faith utterly excludes boasting, the righteousness of works cannot in any way be associated with the righteousness of faith. This meaning is so clearly expressed in the fourth chapter to the Romans as to leave no room for cavil or evasion. “If Abraham were justified by works he has whereof to glory;” and then it is added, “but not before God,” (Rom. 4: 2.) The conclusion, therefore, is, that he was not justified by works. He then employs another argument from contraries, viz., when reward is paid to works, it is done of debt, not of grace; but the righteousness of faith is of grace: therefore it is not of the merit of works. Away, then, with the dream of those who invent a righteousness compounded of faith and works, (see Calvin. ad Concilium Tridentinum.)

14. The Sophists, who delight in sporting with Scripture and in empty cavils, think they have a subtle evasion when they expound works to mean, such as unregenerated men do literally, and by the effect of free will, without the grace of Christ, and deny that these have any reference to spiritual works. Thus according to them, man is justified by faith as well as by works, provided these are not his own works, but gifts of Christ and fruits of regeneration; Paul’s only object in so expressing himself being to convince the Jews, that in trusting to their ohm strength they foolishly arrogated righteousness to themselves, whereas it is bestowed upon us by the Spirit of Christ alone, and not by studied efforts of our own nature. But they observe not that in the antithesis between Legal and Gospel righteousness, which Paul elsewhere introduces, all kinds of works, with whatever name adorned, are excluded, (Gal. 3: 11, 12.) For he says that the righteousness of the Law consists in obtaining salvation by doing what the Law requires, but that the righteousness of faith consists in believing that Christ died and rose again, (Rom. 10: 5-9.) Moreover, we shall afterwards see, at the proper place, that the blessings of sanctification and justification, which we derive from Christ, are different. Hence it follows, that not even spiritual works are taken into account when the power of justifying is ascribed to faith. And, indeed, the passage above quoted, in which Paul declares that Abraham had no ground of glorying before God, because he was not justified by works, ought not to be confined to a literal and external form of virtue, or to the effort of free will. The meaning is, that though the life of the Patriarch had been spiritual and almost angelic, yet he could not by the merit of works have procured justification before God.

15. The Schoolmen treat the matter somewhat more grossly by mingling their preparations with it; and yet the others instill into the simple and unwary a no less pernicious dogma, when, under cover of the Spirit and grace, they hide the divine mercy, which alone can give peace to the trembling soul. We, indeed, hold with Paul, that those who fulfill the Law are justified by God, but because we are all far from observing the Law, we infer that the works which should be most effectual to justification are of no avail to us, because we are destitute of them. In regard to vulgar Papists or Schoolmen, they are here doubly wrong, both in calling faith assurance of conscience while waiting to receive from God the reward of merits, and in interpreting divine grace to mean not the imputation of gratuitous righteousness, but the assistance of the Spirit in the study of holiness. They quote from an Apostle: “He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Heb. 11: 6.) But they observe not what the method of seeking is. Then in regard to the term grace, it is plain from their writings that they labour under a delusion. For Lombard holds that justification is given to us by Christ in two ways. “First,” says he, (Lombard, Sent. Lib. 3, Dist. 16, c. 11,) “the death of Christ justifies us when by means of it the love by which we are made righteous is excited in our hearts; and, secondly, when by means of it sin is extinguished, sin by which the devil held us captive, but by which he cannot now procure our condemnation.” You see here that the chief office of divine grace in our justification he considers to be its directing us to good works by the agency of the Holy Spirit. He intended, no doubt, to follow the opinion of Augustine, but he follows it at a distance, and even wanders far from a true imitation of him both obscuring what was clearly stated by Augustine, and making what in him was less pure more corrupt. The Schools have always gone from worse to worse, until at length, in their downward path, they have degenerated into a kind of Pelagianism. Even the sentiment of Augustine, or at least his mode of expressing it, cannot be entirely approved of. For although he is admirable in stripping man of all merit of righteousness, and transferring the whole praise of it to God, yet he classes the grace by which we are regenerated to newness of life under the head of sanctification.

16. Scripture, when it treats of justification by faith, leads us in a very different direction. Turning away our view from our own works, it bids us look only to the mercy of God and the perfection of Christ. The order of justification which it sets before us is this: first, God of his mere gratuitous goodness is pleased to embrace the sinner, in whom he sees nothing that can move him to mercy but wretchedness, because he sees him altogether naked and destitute of good works. He, therefore, seeks the cause of kindness in himself, that thus he may affect the sinner by a sense of his goodness, and induce him, in distrust of his own works, to cast himself entirely upon his mercy for salvation. This is the meaning of faith by which the sinner comes into the possession of salvation, when, according to the doctrine of the Gospel, he perceives that he is reconciled by God; when, by the intercession of Christ, he obtains the pardon of his sins, and is justified; and, though renewed by the Spirit of God, considers that, instead of leaning on his own works, he must look solely to the righteousness which is treasured up for him in Christ. When these things are weighed separately, they will clearly explain our view, though they may be arranged in a better order than that in which they are here presented. But it is of little consequence, provided they are so connected with each other as to give us a full exposition and solid confirmation of the whole subject.

17. Here it is proper to remember the relation which we previously established between faith and the Gospel; faith being said to justify because it receives and embraces the righteousness offered in the Gospel. By the very fact of its being said to be offered by the Gospel, all consideration of works is excluded. This Paul repeatedly declares, and in two passages, in particular, most clearly demonstrates. In the Epistle to the Romans, comparing the Law and the Gospel, he says, “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, – If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” (Rom. 10: 5, 6: 9.) Do you see how he makes the distinction between the Law and the Gospel to be, that the former gives justification to works, whereas the latter bestows it freely without any help from works? This is a notable passage, and may free us from many difficulties if we understand that the justification which is given us by the Gospel is free from any terms of Law. It is for this reason he more than once places the promise in diametrical opposition to the Law. “If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise,” (Gal. 3: 18.) Expressions of similar import occur in the same chapter. Undoubtedly the Law also has its promises; and, therefore, between them and the Gospel promises there must be some distinction and difference, unless we are to hold that the comparison is inept. And in what can the difference consist unless in this that the promises of the Gospel are gratuitous, and founded on the mere mercy of God, whereas the promises of the Law depend on the condition of works? But let no pester here allege that only the righteousness which men would obtrude upon God of their own strength and free will is repudiated; since Paul declares, without exceptions that the Law gained nothing by its commands, being such as none, not only of mankind in general, but none even of the most perfect, are able to fulfill. Love assuredly is the chief commandment in the Law, and since the Spirit of God trains us to love, it cannot but be a cause of righteousness in us, though that righteousness even in the saints is defective, and therefore of no value as a ground of merit.

18. The second passage is, “That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them,” (Gal. 3: 11, 12; Hab. 2: 4.) How could the argument hold unless it be true that works are not to be taken into account, but are to be altogether separated? The Law, he says, is different from faith. Why? Because to obtain justification by it, works are required; and hence it follows, that to obtain justification by the Gospel they are not required. From this statement, it appears that those who are justified by faith are justified independent of, nay, in the absence of, the merit of works, because faith receives that righteousness which the Gospel bestows. But the Gospel differs from the Law in this, that it does not confine justification to works, but places it entirely in the mercy of God. In like manner, Paul contends, in the Epistle to the Romans, that Abraham had no ground of glorying, because faith was imputed to him for righteousness, (Rom. 4: 2;) and he adds in confirmation, that the proper place for justification by faith is where there are no works to which reward is due. “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” What is given to faith is gratuitous, this being the force of the meaning of the words which he there employs. Shortly after he adds, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace,” (Rom. 4: 16;) and hence infers that the inheritance is gratuitous because it is procured by faith. How so but just because faiths without the aid of works leans entirely on the mercy of God? And in the same sense, doubtless, he elsewhere teaches, that the righteousness of God without the Law was manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (Rom. 3: 21;) for excluding the Law, he declares that it is not aided by worlds, that we do not obtain it by working, but are destitute when we draw near to receive it.

19. The reader now perceives with what fairness the Sophists of the present day cavil at our doctrine, when we say that a man is justified by faith alone, (Rom. 4: 2.) They dare not deny that he is justified by faith, seeing Scripture so often declares it; but as the word alone is nowhere expressly used they will not tolerate its being added. Is it so? What answer, then will they give to the words of Paul, when he contends that righteousness is not of faith unless it be gratuitous? How can it be gratuitous, and yet by works? By what cavils, moreover, will they evade his declaration in another place, that in the Gospel the righteousness of God is manifested? (Rom. 1: 17.) If righteousness is manifested in the Gospel, it is certainly not a partial or mutilated, but a full and perfect righteousness. The Law, therefore, has no part in its and their objection to the exclusive word alone is not only unfounded, but is obviously absurd. Does he not plainly enough attribute everything to faith alone when he disconnects it with works? What I would ask, is meant by the expressions, “The righteousness of God without the law is manifested;” “Being justified freely by his grace;” “Justified by faith without the deeds of the law?” (Rom. 3: 21, 24, 28.) Here they have an ingenious subterfuge, one which, though not of their own devising but taken from Origin and some ancient writers, is most childish. They pretend that the works excluded are ceremonial, not moral works. Such profit do they make by their constant wrangling, that they possess not even the first elements of logic. Do they think the Apostle was raving when he produced, in proof of his doctrine, these passages? “The man that does them shall live in them,” (Gal. 3: 12.) “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them,” (Gal. 3: 10.) Unless they are themselves raving, they will not say that life was promised to the observers of ceremonies, and the curse denounced only against the transgressors of them. If these passages are to be understood of the Moral Law, there cannot be a doubt that moral works also are excluded from the power of justifying. To the same effect are the arguments which he employs. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin,” (Rom. 3: 20.) “The law worketh wrath,” (Rom. 4: 15,) and therefore not righteousness. “The law cannot pacify the conscience,” and therefore cannot confer righteousness. “Faith is imputed for righteousness,” and therefore righteousness is not the reward of works, but is given without being due. Because “we are justified by faith,” boasting is excluded. “Had there been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe,” (Gal. 3: 21, 22.) Let them maintain, if they dare, that these things apply to ceremonies, and not to morals, and the very children will laugh at their effrontery. The true conclusion, therefore, is, that the whole Law is spoken of when the power of justifying is denied to it.

20. Should any one wonder why the Apostle, not contented with having named works, employs this addition, the explanation is easy. However highly works may be estimated, they have their whole value more from the approbation of God than from their own dignity. For who will presume to plume himself before God on the righteousness of works, unless in so far as He approves of them? Who will presume to demand of Him a reward except in so far as He has promised it? It is owing entirely to the goodness of God that works are deemed worthy of the honor and reward of righteousness; and, therefore, their whole value consists in this, that by means of them we endeavor to manifest obedience to God. Wherefore, in another passage, the Apostle, to prove that Abraham could not be justified by works, declares, “that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect,” (Gal. 3: 17.) The unskillful would ridicule the argument that there could be righteous works before the promulgation of the Law, but the Apostle, knowing that works could derive this value solely from the testimony and honor conferred on them by God, takes it for granted that, previous to the Law, they had no power of justifying. We see why he expressly terms them works of Law when he would deny the power of justifying to theme viz., because it was only with regard to such works that a question could be raised; although he sometimes, without addition, excepts all kinds of works whatever, as when on the testimony of David he speaks of the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works, (Rom. 4: 5, 6.) No cavils, therefore, can enable them to prove that the exclusion of works is not general. In vain do they lay hold of the frivolous subtilty, that the faith alone, by which we are justified, “worketh by love,” and that love, therefore, is the foundation of justification. We, indeed, acknowledge with Paul, that the only faith which justifies is that which works by love, (Gal. 5: 6;) but love does not give it its justifying power. Nay, its only means of justifying consists in its bringing us into communication with the righteousness of Christ. Otherwise the whole argument, on which the Apostle insists with so much earnestness, would fall. to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Could he express more clearly than in this word, that there is justification in faith only where there are no works to which reward is due, and that faith is imputed for righteousness only when righteousness is conferred freely without merit?

21. Let us now consider the truth of what was said in the definition, viz., that justification by faith is reconciliation with God, and that this consists solely in the remission of sins. We must always return to the axioms that the wrath of God lies upon all men so long as they continue sinners. This is elegantly expressed by Isaiah in these words: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear,” (Isaiah 59: 1, 2.) We are here told that sin is a separation between God and man; that His countenance is turned away from the sinner; and that it cannot be otherwise, since, to have any intercourse with sin is repugnant to his righteousness. Hence the Apostle shows that man is at enmity with God until he is restored to favour by Christ, (Rom. 5: 8-l0.) When the Lord, therefore, admits him to union, he is said to justify him, because he can neither receive him into favor, nor unite him to himself, without changing his condition from that of a sinner into that of a righteous man. We adds that this is done by remission of sins. For if those whom the Lord has reconciled to himself are estimated by works, they will still prove to be in reality sinners, while they ought to be pure and free from sin. It is evident therefore, that the only way in which those whom God embraces are made righteous, is by having their pollutions wiped away by the remission of sins, so that this justification may be termed in one word the remission of sins.

22. Both of these become perfectly clear from the words of Paul: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” He then subjoins the sum of his embassy: “He has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5: l9-21.) He here uses righteousness and reconciliation indiscriminately, to make us understand that the one includes the other. The mode of obtaining this righteousness he explains to be, that our sins are not imputed to us. Wherefore, you cannot henceforth doubt how God justifies us when you hear that he reconciles us to himself by not imputing our faults. In the same manner, in the Epistle to the Romans, he proves, by the testimony of David, that righteousness is imputed without works, because he declares the man to be blessed “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” and “unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,” (Rom. 4: 6; Ps. 32: 1, 2.) There he undoubtedly uses blessedness for righteousness; and as he declares that it consists in forgiveness of sins, there is no reason why we should define it otherwise. Accordingly, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, sings that the knowledge of salvation consists in the forgiveness of sins, (Luke 1: 77.) The same course was followed by Paul when, in addressing the people of Antioch, he gave them a summary of salvation. Luke states that he concluded in this way: “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 12: 38, 39.) Thus the Apostle connects forgiveness of sins with justification in such a way as to show that they are altogether the same; and hence he properly argues that justification, which we owe to the indulgence of God, is gratuitous. Nor should it seem an unusual mode of expression to say that believers are justified before God not by works, but by gratuitous acceptance, seeing it is frequently used in Scripture, and sometimes also by ancient writers. Thus Augustine says: “The righteousness of the saints in this world consists more in the forgiveness of sins than the perfection of virtue,” (August. de Civitate Dei, lib. 19, cap. 27.) To this corresponds the well-known sentiment of Bernard: “Not to sin is the righteousness of God, but the righteousness of man is the indulgence of God,” (Bernard, Serm. 22, 23 in Cant.) He previously asserts that Christ is our righteousness in absolution, and, therefore, that those only are just who have obtained pardon through mercy.

23. Hence also it is proved, that it is entirely by the intervention of Christ’s righteousness that we obtain justification before God. This is equivalent to saying that man is not just in himself, but that the righteousness of Christ is communicated to him by imputation, while he is strictly deserving of punishment. Thus vanishes the absurd dogma, that man is justified by faith, inasmuch as it brings him under the influence of the Spirit of God by whom he is rendered righteous. This is so repugnant to the above doctrine that it never can be reconciled with it. There can be no doubt that he who is taught to seek righteousness out of himself does not previously possess it in himself. This is most clearly declared by the Apostle, when he says, that he who knew no sin was made an expiatory victim for sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5: 21.) You see that our righteousness is not in ourselves, but in Christ; that the only way in which we become possessed of it is by being made partakers with Christ, since with him we possess all riches. There is nothing repugnant to this in what he elsewhere says: “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” (Rom. 8: 3, 4.) Here the only fulfillment to which he refers is that which we obtain by imputation. Our Lord Jesus Christ communicates his righteousness to us, and so by some wondrous ways in so far as pertains to the justice of Gods transfuses its power into us. That this was the Apostle’s view is abundantly clear from another sentiment which he had expressed a little before: “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” (Rom. 5: 19.) To declare that we are deemed righteous, solely because the obedience of Christ is imputed to us as if it where our own, is just to place our righteousness in the obedience of Christ. Wherefore, Ambrose appears to me to have most elegantly adverted to the blessing of Jacob as an illustration of this righteousness, when he says that as he who did not merit the birthright in himself personated his brother, put on his garments which gave forth a most pleasant odour, and thus introduced himself to his father that he might receive a blessing to his own advantage, though under the person of another, so we conceal ourselves under the precious purity of Christ, our first-born brother, that we may obtain an attestation of righteousness from the presence of God. The words of Ambrose are, – “Isaac’s smelling the odour of his garments, perhaps means that we are justified not by works, but by faith, since carnal infirmity is an impediment to works, but errors of conduct are covered by the brightness of faith, which merits the pardon of faults,” (Ambrose de Jacobo et Vita Beats, Lib. 2, c. 2.) And so indeed it is; for in order to appear in the presence of God for salvation, we must send forth that fragrant odour, having our vices covered and buried by his perfection.

A prayer

Of David.

1Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
2Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
3Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation!”

4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
5Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
6Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!

7For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life.
8Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!And let the net that he hid ensnare him;
let him fall into it—to his destruction!

9Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD,
exulting in his salvation.
10All my bones shall say,
“O LORD, who is like you,
delivering the poor
from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

11 Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
13But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
14I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.

15But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
16like profane mockers at a feast,
they gnash at me with their teeth.

17How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
18I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.

19 Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
21They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!”

22 You have seen, O LORD; be not silent!
O Lord, be not far from me!
23Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
24 Vindicate me, O LORD, my God,
according to your righteousness,
and let them not rejoice over me!
25Let them not say in their hearts,
“Aha, our heart’s desire!”
Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”

26Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me!

27Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad
and say evermore,
“Great is the LORD,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
28Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all the day long.

I’d rather believe in prevenient grace and justification by faith

The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration. But while this consideration leads to the conclusion that justification logically precedes regeneration, it does not prove the priority of justification in a temporal sense.

via Where’s Waldo Wednesday: What’s At Stake?.

I noticed this in Berkhof back when I read him in (or before?) seminary and I’ll just state it again since I’m reminded of the quotation.

Berkhof must either:

1. Deny justification by faith


2. Deny the depravity of man.

Either is is possible for an unregenerate person to believe and thereby be justified or a person is justified without and apart from faith.

I realized, Berkhof claims no temporal priority but I don’t think that solves the problem.

And, to say that one is regenerated on the basis of the imputed merits of Christ doesn’t seem any more cogent than claiming that God only sent Jesus to die for sinners because he had first imputed Christ’s righteousness to them. We don’t need to “deserve” regeneration any more than we need to “deserve” for God to send his son for us.

God can be merciful.

This is Reformed soteriology as embodied in the Westminster Confession and catechisms:

1. God effectually calls us/regenerates us

2. Faith is both a gift of that union and the means by which it takes place.

3. The legal manifestation of union with Christ is justification before God.

See also The Belgic Confession

Do legalists care enough about God to boast to Him?

Paul accuses his Jewish contemporaries that they “boast in God” the wrong way. We could infer from this is that people come before God to boast in themselves, expecting him to praise their good works. This could be an interpretation of the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, as well.

But I wonder.

I think a case could be made that Paul thinks that the problem with legalists is that they want to boast in front of people and don’t really care that much about God at all. After all, look how Paul’s critique works:

17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Now, if Paul was worried about people who are trying to impress God, why on earth did he end with a statement that one should want God to be impressed rather than man.

Could it be that in claiming to be ” a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children” that the Jews are more concerned with how others view them rather than what God really thinks (thus, verse 24 shows that God is frustrating their wishes).

And isn’t it perhaps significant that, though the Pharisee prays “I thank you God…” he also does so out loud in public so that he is boasting before men?

And then consider Galatians, especially as it concludes in chapter 6:

3For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5For each will have to bear his own load…. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

And what does Jesus say in John’s Gospel?

41 I do not receive glory from people. 42But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

And what is Jesus’ concern in the Sermon on the Mount?

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…

16“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…

Reading Matthew 6 as a contextual whole, one might wonder if “money” doesn’t also represent the need for human praise. And, likewise, while we are not supposed to be anxious about real needs, how much more should we not be anxious about what other people think?

Our treasure is in heaven, not earth, and our praise is from God, not men.

Trust the God who sees in secret for your righteous standing, and do not try to gain righteousness in the sight of anyone else.


Related: Ready to Applaud

Synonyms really exist; and “definitive sanctification” is not new

Warning: this is a Presbyterian geek post. If it doesn’t seem relevant to you, that is probably because it isn’t. Not worth your time.

I constantly hear that John Murray “came up with” the doctrine of definitive sanctification. Here’s the essay.

This really involves a confusion of semantics over substance. To some extent, Murray himself is a source of this confusion since he insists “regeneration” has to be a different thing (?) or point in the order of salvation. This gets especially weird when he appeals to Titus 3. He seems aware of this, because he then adds a footnote (4):

While regeneration is an all-important factor in definitive sanctification, it would not be proper to subsume the latter under the topic “regeneration.” The reason is that what is most characteristic in definitive sanctification, namely, death to sin by union with Christ in his death and newness of life by union with him in his resurrection, cannot properly be referred to regeneration by the Spirit. There is multiformity to that which occurs at the inception of the Christian life, and each facet must be accorded its own particularity. Calling, for example, as the action of the Father, must not be defined in terms of what is specifically the action of the Holy Spirit, namely, regeneration. Definitive sanctification, likewise, must be allowed its own individuality. We impoverish our conception of definitive grace when we fail to appreciate the distinctiveness of each aspect or indulge in over-simplification.

I don’t see any basis for this assertion. There is every reason in the world to believe that “death to sin by union with Christ in his death and newness of life by union with him in his resurrection” can indeed ” properly be referred to regeneration by the Spirit.” Nor have I ever felt as confident as Murray that different actions toward saving the sinner must only be attributed to one person in the Trinity. I don’t see how we “impoverish” any thing.

In any case, “definitive sanctification” is just another term for “effectual calling,” as the Westminster Confession states:

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by his almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

So, in an instant, at the start of the true Christian life, God makes sinners ready and willing to leave disobedience and embrace obedience. How is this now sanctification.

In fact, it seems to me that the first sentence on sanctification acknowledges that the sanctification was already begun earlier:

They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

If someone can prove that “further” meant additionally I’ll not fight it. But as it stands, it sounds like an admission that Christians are being more sanctified as they continue in or from their effectual calling.

So, while I respect and learn from John Murray, I think he attributed more novelty to his thinking here than he should have done. And likewise, Murray’s enemies have no basis here for pointing to some sort of innovation that makes Murray suspect.

Effectual calling is the beginning of sanctification and later sanctification is the continuance in one’s calling.

Raised to new life; raised to Lordship

…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10.9-13).


Paul’s statement about belief and confession are mutually interpreting. Jesus was established as Lord by being raised to that office in God’s raising him from the dead. Jesus was installed as Lord and King by his resurrection.

While it is easy to think of Jesus as Lord as a matter of his authority over us (and that is true as far as it goes) the more prominent feature of this confession and belief is that Jesus has received Lordship on behalf of the human race. God created humanity for dominion (Genesis 1) and in Christ they get that dominion. This, for example, is the presupposition in Romans 6 about why we are no longer slaves to sin–we have been given lordship and thus are no longer ruled by sin:

How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free (literally: “justified”) from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

And Paul, in Romans 5 has already defined “life” as reign and explicitly stated that we rule in Christ the king:

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

So just to emphasize the point, rather than contrasting “death reigned” to “life now reigns” he rather says that we “reign in life.”

To say “Jesus is Lord” is a lot like saying, “My older brother is the mayor of this town.” Or: “My uncle owns this factory.” Jesus has been made a human king not for the sake of raw authority but to bring back from frustration and fulfill the purpose of the human race to rule all creation.

To take the lesson from C. S. Lewis’ The Narnia Chronicles: Yes Jesus is high king, but Christians are like Edmund and Lucy.


Faith, Hope, Love, all three

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

One idea one gets from some notable Reformed theologians is that only faith justifies because only faith is passive and outward looking (or worse, “extraspective“). Hope and Love are active, would imply works and merit, while faith is not and does not.

But it seems to me that all three could easily be understood as outward oriented. “Hope” can be used as virtually a synonym for trust or faith.

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

And likewise, Paul does not portray loving God as some kind of moral heroism but as nothing more than caring and hoping in one’s own well-being with the recognition that it is bound up in the other:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

There is no great credit in loving your wife because you are insane and self-hating not to love her. How much more is there no credit or merit in loving Jesus and God when one recognizes that they are the key to one’s own purpose and provision!

So when taking “love” and “hope” in the abstract, I don’t think that it would be difficult to produce credible descriptions from the Biblical data that are just as passive and outward looking.

It seems to me that the reason that faith is singled out as the means by which we are counted righteous before God needs to be sought elsewhere. Sociologically, I think the point is that all those who confess the true God (confess their faith or belief) belong to Jesus whether or not the are circumcised. All are righteous before God, belong to his covenant people, without any other condition.

On a more personal level, I suspect the key issue is the promissory nature of salvation. While one could easily also put hope in this place, the more fundamental reality is one has hope because one trusts God to keep His promises. So faith is the human response to God’s faithfulness that He has kept and keeps His promises:

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

This last I take as a word play that is stating from God’s faithfulness to our faith. That, I believe, matches the appeal to Habakkuk which is all about God’s faithfulness in adversity and how those who trust Him, count him faithful, are righteous in His sight.

The Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper — Why it matters

Why it matters will depend on a host of inferences. Not everyone makes the same inferences from the same principles. Systems can go in different directions. I can say everything at once in this brief post. Not going to try. But this is why I think if matters so much.

Are we saved by ideas or by Christ? We are justified by faith, but how? The answer that many have given from Scripture (John Calvin being one of the most influential with me) is that we are united to the person of Jesus Christ by faith. We are deeply and really, by the power of the Holy Spirit, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.

So, assuming a certain kind of relationship between how we worship and how we are saved (see above re: inferences), eating and drinking at the Lord’s Supper is not simply about ideas or remembering what took place. It is a true renewal and participation in Christ’s risen, transfigured, human life. Christ has been vindicated, so in Christ is our justification.

That is the fundamental issue with me. It is the basic rationale for insisting on the point as important and worth arguing about against a “Zwinglian” position.

Monopoly & censorship in your food and environment! (Here’s something that might be worth discussing at Occupy Wall Street)

Most of my career as an environmental consultant has been involved in helping commercial and industrial clients comply with the various regulations in a way that allowed them to still be profitable. About 15 years ago we were working on a nationwide study for a trade association. In our research for that study, we came upon a process that was used during WWI that could possibly benefit many of our clients. We performed some laboratory studies and confirmed that this procedure would indeed be beneficial to our clients and reduce the potential for certain pollutants leaching from a waste material. We published the results of our investigation in a report distributed nationwide (which places the procedure in the public domain). After our report was public, a large corporation filed for a patent for this process. The U. S. Patent Office granted the patent in spite of the fact that the process had been placed in the public domain and was, in fact, merely a different application of a process used during WWI.

We contacted a patent attorney and learned that it would cost us between $250,000 and $500,000 to contest the patent. Our intention was to put this process in the public domain so that people could use it without paying our company, or anyone else, any license fee. We obviously could not afford to contest the patent and so many of our clients are paying an outrageous license fee every year for a process a high school chemistry student could assemble in his back yard. This is similar in principle to what Monsanto has done with the genetically altered soybean seeds. Monsanto now controls over 90% of the soybean seed market. These seeds are patented and it is illegal for the farmers who grow the crops to collect and clean the seed for next year’s crop. We should pause and consider this a moment. Farmers purchase seed with their money; plant the seed on their land; work the fields with their equipment using fuel they have purchased; and, at the end of the season they harvest their crop but are forbidden to use a part of the harvest (seeds) to continue the process next year. What a travesty our government and its legal system have created. Shame on us for allowing this to happen.

The thing in the movie that sent me over the edge was the realization that more than a few states have enacted laws forbidding people to publically criticize the food suppliers. In the movie a mother who lost her toddler son to E Coli won’t mention the names of the fast food outlets where her son ate because she has been threatened with lawsuits that would bankrupt the family. In the state of Colorado it is a felony (with prison time attached) to criticize the beef or pork producers for their animal management practices. Is this not unbelievable? Yes, maybe it is time for another revolution if we are going to save what is left of the American way of life. The government corruption that has lead to this situation transcends parties.

Read the whole post at: Reluc Tant.


I know the writer and can vouch for his integrity and honesty. I don’t always agree with him, however (nor does he agree with everything in Food, Inc, the movie he is writing about). He goes on to talk about electing “trust-busters” but I don’t see how that could ever work. People who directly profit from lobbying are always going to have more resources to do so then the rest of the plundered and exploited population. The entire concept of “intellectual property” (the only kind of private property the modern state seems to respect) needs to be declared a fiction and a rationalization for robbery and serfdom. The entire situation is Feudal, with lives being destroyed to protect “the king’s deer.”

I’m pretty much an unapologetic abolitionist on the entire arrangement. Even though I’d love to make money as an author.

But notice how corporations now work. There are companies that work honorably. The author works for one that came up with a way to benefit everyone. But those companies are in a system designed to make them the losers and pirates the winners. Corporations are the antithesis of freedom and a market economy. They are the Iron Curtain. And the system is government coercion with Corporations as the Feudal barons.

God grant us an end to these horrors and mercifully release our planet to the freedom of trade and respect for real property rather than tyranny in the name of fake property.

Does God still speak? Does God still act?

Evangelicalism is roughly (very roughly) divided into two camps: those who believe in “continuing revelation” in the form of supernatural prophecies, utterances, and divinely-given knowledge. Others insist that, since “the canon is closed,”  all prophecy must have ceased.

Personally, I believe that all prophecy, utterances, and divinely-given knowledge of the self-attesting type is now over. My main reason for this belief is what I think is the obvious fact that it does not happen anymore. I don’t see any direct instruction in the Bible that explains that it was all going to cease at a certain point in time, but it did (again, I take this as obvious). Given that the kind of stuff we read about in Acts and First Corinthians doesn’t happen anymore, I have deduced that once the canon of the Word of God, the Bible, was complete, that God wanted us to make our way in the world without such specific communications from Him.

So doe this mean God never speaks anymore?

I don’t think so.

The Reformation tradition gives us a way that God continues to communicate in specific ways to his Church in specific times and places. While this communication is not an addition to the inerrant word of God, it is nevertheless truly a communication from God. It is best set out in the Second Helvetic Confession:

THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.

Neither do we think that therefore the outward preaching is to be thought as fruitless because the instruction in true religion depends on the inward illumination of the Spirit, or because it is written “And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor…, for they shall all know me” (Jer. 31:34), And “Neither he who plants nor he that waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (I Cor. 3:7). For although “No one can come to Christ unless he be drawn by the Father” (John 6:44), And unless the Holy Spirit inwardly illumines him, yet we know that it is surely the will of God that his Word should be preached outwardly also. God could indeed, by his Holy Spirit, or by the ministry of an angel, without the ministry of St. Peter, have taught Cornelius in the Acts; but, nevertheless, he refers him to Peter, of whom the angel speaking says, “He shall tell you what you ought to do.”

So notice the identity. The preaching of God’s Word is God’s Word. Is there Biblical backing for this? I believe so. In Ephesians 2 Paul writes that,

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off [Gentiles] have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

So Christ not only died and rose again but he then went and preached to the Ephesians. How did he do this since we know he ascended into Heaven and never traveled to Ephesus? The answer seems to be that he preached through authorized intermediaries. Paul later elaborates on his list so that it includes more than just “apostles and prophets.” In Ephesians 4 we read that, as a result of Jesus’ ascension

he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds [pastors] and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Through these people, Jesus preaches peace in this age. Thus Paul goes on to write

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Notice that I have re-literalized the ESV. It does not say we have heard about Christ but that we have heard Christ ourselves. We learned Christ this way. How? By the preaching of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Christ Himself speaks for them.

And if this is so, we must also recognize that God himself acts through his servants. Jesus gave the Great Commission which not only commanded that He be taught (“to observe all that I have commanded you”) but that he induct disciples (“baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”). When a pastor fulfills the Great Commission by baptizing a person, he is not acting on his own. He is acting as an authorized and empowered agent of Jesus Christ. Christ himself is publicly and officially receiving the person baptized into his own household and kingdom. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (First Corinthians 12.13).

So when we are tempted to doubt that God has named and claimed us as his own, we need to remember the act in which He did so. A mere mortal may have baptized you, perhaps one who has subsequently fallen from the faith. It does not matter. He was acting as God’s agent at the time under the direction of God’s providence and God’s Spirit. You were not merely baptized by man but by God.

Does God still speak? Does God still act?

God has received you into His Son and, has thus declared over you, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3.21). As it is written:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s family, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.